Put a stop to that Hall of Fame clock. Or better yet, just pause it for the time being.
That’s because Jason Witten has decided he isn’t done playing just yet.
Although he retired from the NFL last May, the future Hall of Famer is coming back to the Cowboys for what will be his 16th pro season. Witten played 15 years for the Cowboys from 2003-17, which included 11 Pro Bowls, the most in team history by any offensive player.
But after abruptly deciding to hang up the cleats last May and join the broadcast booth of Monday Night Football, Witten has apparently had a change of heart. He will return to the field and officially sign a contract with the Cowboys, who retained his rights when he was placed on the NFL’s Reserve/Retired list.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”
Witten will rejoin a Cowboys team that finished 10-6 and won a wild-card game before falling to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC’s divisional round.
While the Cowboys have plenty of young talent and a roster that had eight Pro Bowl selections, there is still a question mark at tight end – a question that has presumably been answered for now. Witten returns to a tight end position that includes Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz under contract, along with Rico Gathers. Geoff Swaim, who started all nine of the games he played, is an unrestricted free agent and might not be a top priority to re-sign now that Witten has returned.
In fact, drafting a tight end might not be a priority as well, considering the youth and potential of both Jarwin and Schultz, who now get the luxury of learning from one of the best to ever play the position.
Witten retired with 1,152 career receptions, which ranks fourth in NFL history, behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. His 12,448 receiving yards rank 21st in league record books, but second among tight ends behind only Gonzalez (15,127).
More than just stats, Witten provides consistency, not only with his numbers but also his availability. His 239 career games played is a Cowboys franchise record, and he played a full 16 games for 15 straight years, only missing one game during his career, dating back to his rookie season in 2003.