FRISCO, Texas – Jason Witten's name is splashed across the Cowboys' record books: he's first on the all-time receptions list (1,044) and he's less than 500 yards away from Michael Irvin's all-time receiving yards record (11,904).
This Sunday Witten is set to join Ed "Too Tall" Jones with the most career starts in team history (203). He's also two games away from Lee Roy Jordan's franchise record for most career consecutive starts (154).
Statistics lead to Pro Bowls – Witten has 10 of those – but career longevity is just as important. Witten's high school coach, his grandfather, taught him the importance of earning his teammates' respect as a reliable player.
"I don't want to make it bigger than it is. It's not like I'm Hercules or something," Witten said. "I love to play football and I think anybody that's ever been my teammate or I've been theirs understands how much I love that. When you break a collarbone or something like that, that's out of your control. You're put on the shelf for a few weeks. For me, I've been lucky from that standpoint, and when you have injuries you just grind it out. Great staff there in the training room. I've been able to do that with them for 14 years. They know me, I know them and you work around the clock to get back when you have those situations."
There have been games over 14 years that Witten wasn't expected to play – most notably in 2012 when he played the season opener after suffering a lacerated spleen in the first preseason game.
"The spleen was a little bit different and that's one that we'll always remember and talk about," Witten said. "But everything else I just try to work really hard because I just can't imagine not being out there, whether we were in Week 16 and out of the playoffs or whether we're playing for a championship."
Witten is proud to be mentioned in the same conversation as Jones, one of the most productive defensive linemen in team history. He's on this week's injury report with a chest injury but has practiced fully this week.
"You simply can't get him off the field," Garrett said. "He's had a lot of different things he's dealt with, but he has a will that's as strong as anybody I've ever been around. He's got a passion for the game and a passion for this team that's as great as anybody I've ever been around. He's just a really, really impressive guy. I'm inspired by him every day."