IRVING, Texas –When Jason Witten likely breaks Dallas legend Michael Irvin's record for most receptions as a Cowboy this Sunday, don't count Tony Gonzalez as one who will be surprised to see Witten reach the milestone.
On Wednesday, Gonzalez said he's already seen Witten break another record a few days ago. So nothing at this point is a shock.
"That doesn't surprise me, especially after watching that game last week," Gonzalez said. "I was watching on the plane back home when he caught 18 balls or whatever it was. He's a pass-catching machine. He's been able to stay healthy. Obviously, he's the blanket for Tony Romo. He's going to hit him on those check-downs and quick routes."
As perhaps the man who set the standard for tight ends in the NFL, Gonzalez had a great deal of admiration for a player he considers to be his peer.
"I have all the respect for him," Gonzalez said. "He plays the position the way it's supposed to be played."
The respect is certainly mutual. Witten explained that he has looked up to Gonzalez since he came into the league.
"He's the greatest to ever play at the tight end position," Witten said. "It's amazing that he's still going at the level he's going at. You talk about durability and consistency, he kind of defines that."
Gonzalez has the NFL's all-time record for catches with 1,195, while Witten is third with 747, although he came into the league six years after Gonzalez.
This year, their numbers are remarkably similar. Gonzalez has 46 catches for 459 yards and four touchdowns, while Witten has 51 for 487 and one score.
As probably the two most consistent tight ends of the last decade, Gonzalez and Witten are not only familiar with each other's work, but also very friendly off the field.
"I have gotten to know Witten," Gonzalez said. "The way he prepares – and we've talked about it, too – that's a huge part of being successful in the NFL no matter what position you play. The work that he puts into it, you can't be surprised when has that type of success because he's paid the price for it. He's a good athlete and he's got a good quarterback throwing to him."