Witten Confident About Return: "I'll Be Ready"


WACO, Texas – Jason Witten joined a long list of Cowboys greats in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night, a celebration of his cosmic accomplishments with America's Team.

Those days aren't over, though.

Back from a one-year retirement spent in the ESPN Monday Night Football booth, the 36-year-old tight end feels like he's just getting started again.

"I said it when I retired a year ago, I don't know that anybody really knows when it's their time to go. And I was no different," Witten said Saturday, his first public comments since announcing on March 1 that he would return to the Cowboys this season.

"I had a great experience in the (ESPN) booth. I saw a different perspective. I saw the league from a different viewpoint in getting the opportunity to go see 31 other teams and how they've built their team and go about it. But at the same time, I saw the Cowboys' team start to come together and a lot of stars and young stars that love the game. When (Cowboys owner/general manager) Jerry (Jones) presented me that opportunity to come back, I was just extremely excited.

"I think more than anything else, something was tugging on me inside me to say, maybe there's something still left to go out there and go after that championship."

Witten is among seven inductees in the 2019 Texas Sports Hall of Fame class: former tennis legend Maureen Connolly Brinker, former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, former professional basketball star Nancy Lieberman, former University of Arkansas Outland Trophy winner Loyd Phillips, former University of Texas and MLB pitcher Greg Swindell and former Texas A&M and NFL kicker Tony Franklin.

Witten made 11 Pro Bowls in his first 15 seasons with the Cowboys. He owns multiple franchise records, including career receiving yards, games played and games started. He also holds the most consecutive starts in team history, missing only game in his entire career during his 2003 rookie season because of a broken jaw.

Saturday's induction in Waco honored everything he's meant to football in the state of Texas for two decades: toughness, durability, greatness.

"Everything I've dreamed about, I've been able to accomplish here in Texas," he said.

But Witten's also ready to continue his legacy in 2019.

Earlier this week, he posted an Instagram video of his new locker at The Star in Frisco, adorned with a helmet and No. 82 practice jersey. The caption: "Let's do it."

"Zack Martin took my locker," he said with a laugh. "It's his locker now. I'm in that area."

Witten spent the month of March working out and watching film. In April the voluntary offseason program will reunite him with most, if not all the Cowboys players. Organized team activities will follow in May.

"I feel like a little kid when my car pulls in," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next six, seven months.

"I think we've got a good young team that's ready to compete. I'm ready to help them out in any way I can."

Witten will turn 37 in May. He hasn't participated in a practice or game since December of 2017.

Does any part of him doubt that he can make a successful comeback?

"I don't, but I also understand that people are going to," he said."I understand that. Hopefully over time they'll see it. That's the great thing about this game is that it always shows.

"I'll be ready."