FRISCO, Texas – Learned four things for certain out here Tuesday night prior to the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award banquet.
First, Jason Witten unequivocally still wants to play football in 2020.
Second, Witten still wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys, no matter a new coaching staff, yearning for the chance to extend his franchise record to 17 seasons.
Third, if not with the Cowboys, Witten seems resigned to playing for another team if that's what it takes to play in 2020.
Fourth, Witten does want to coach at some point, but just not in 2020 if indeed playing is an option.
OK, lied. Here is a fifth. Witten, an unrestricted free agent come March 18, says he hopes to have a clear resolution with his Cowboys situation shortly after the NFL Scouting Combine, Feb. 25-March 2.
As for having talked with new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and what sort of role he might have if indeed the Cowboys re-sign him, Witten said, "We didn't get into the weeds of my role."
However this turns out, Witten seems to be at peace, expressing no bitterness, saying he understands this is just the "business part of the game" if the Cowboys move on from the future Hall of Famer.
"I will always be a Cowboy," Witten said.
Not bad rapid-fire _shots_ to start things off.
- Stomping Grounds: Sure didn't take too long for wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal to land on his feet after the Cowboys let him go with a year left on his contract when moving on from head coach Jason Garrett to Mike McCarthy. Yep, Lal is heading back to Seattle, the Seattle Times reporting the Seahawks have hired him as an offensive assistant. Lal spent three years (1990-92) of his college career at the University of Washington, where he was a member of the Huskies' 1991 national championship team.
- Kicking It Around: Since 2011, the Cowboys had one of the league's most stable kicking operations. Dan Bailey was the kicker from 2011-17, seven seasons. Chris Jones has been the punter from 2011-19, the past nine seasons. And L.P. Ladouceur has been their deep snapper, his Cowboys career beginning in 2005, just finishing his 15th season with the club, only Witten's 16-year career longer. But things do change. The Cowboys moved on from Bailey after an erratic finish to the 2017 season. Though Jones has two years remaining on his contract, from the fourth game of the season in 2019 he struggled to kick through back and sports hernia issues, finishing with his worst statistical career year, averaging just 41.6 yards a punt and only 37.0 net yards. His health status might impact his immediate future. And as for Ladouceur, he's been playing on the one-year veteran exception contract for the past two seasons. But with a new coaching staff, including new special teams coach John Fassel, be interesting to see where the Cowboys go with the kicking game, most obviously needing to find a new kicker after releasing Brett Maher and his replacement Kai Forbath now a free agent.
- Seriously?: One of my favorite items in Sports Illustrated has always been "Signs Of The Apocalypse," and for sure this must be a candidate for the all-timer, originating right here in Dallas, Texas. Some dude Wednesday with no verification posts on Twitter that Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper has been shot in a parking garage, starting a social media wildfire. This was so wrong that it caused the Dallas Police Department to release a statement, "We have NOT found any validity to that tweet," and Cooper to post on his Instagram account, "That was fake news, ya'll." This tale grew to the point, of all things, that the Los Angeles Times posts an online story discounting the social media rumor. Good gosh people, what's this world coming to?
- The Odds: What are the odds if the Cowboys place the non-exclusive franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott if they can't come to terms on a long-term deal by the March 10 tag deadline that some team issues the four-year veteran an enticing offer sheet? And what if Dak signs the offer sheet that's so far off the charts the Cowboys decide not to match, which would cost the signing team two first-round draft choices in 2020? Well, there are three teams in this year's draft with multiple first-round picks: Miami (5, 18, 26), Jacksonville (9, 20) and Las Vegas (12, 19). We could make a case for each team needing a quarterback, especially Miami. The 2020 franchise projections are $27 million for the non-exclusive tag and $33 million for the exclusive tag, meaning teams are not allowed to negotiate with the player.
- Yo, Vinny: Since Drew Brees announced he wants to play at least another season, his 20th, and if he does, only two quarterbacks actually have played quarterback for more seasons. (Discounting George Blanda, who primarily was a placekicker the final eight years of his 26-year NFL career). That would be Earl Morrall 21 seasons, 1956-1976, and yep, Vinny Testaverde, 21 seasons over the span of 1987-2007. Of course, one of those seasons was 2004, as the Cowboys starting QB after the team released starter Quincy Carter during training camp. Brett Favre put in 20 years, and so has Tom Brady, who will hit 21 assuming he plays in 2020.
- Shots Etc.: While Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith was named the 2019 Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award winner, Southern Cal wide receiver Michael Pittman had an interesting story, having overcome struggles with stuttering to not only become a Trojans team captain but also use his struggles as a platform to promote reading skills and work with young kids burdened by stuttering disorders … When trying to understand the cornerback market, it's been reported the Lions want to entertain trade talks for veteran cornerback Darius Slay, who is entering the final year of his contract and has said a deal averaging $15 million to $16 million on a restructure is too low … Speaking of free agency, defensive end Robert Quinn led the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks this season, considered the most by a player in his first year with the team. Not a bad return for his $7.9 million one-year deal.
And finally, from the department of the unbelievable, saw a picture posted Wednesday of NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, two days after his horrific crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 that surely you've seen, his car crossing the finish line skidding on fire upside down. He was released from the hospital, actually walking out under his own strength with his two little daughters, not a cast on his body. Do you believe in miracles?