ORLANDO –One of the more recent NFL traditions is for a player to come off a big postseason victory and, while walking off the field, utter the magic words, "I'm going to Disney World."
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten did that exact same thing on Thursday afternoon, albeit as he left the 2018 NFC Pro Bowl practice field at Disney's Wide World of Sports while holding his youngest daughter Hadley, who was about to make her first-ever trip to the Magic Kingdom.
But then Witten added one bit of news that will no doubt bring a smile to Cowboys fans as well: He is ready to return to the team for his 16th season.
"I feel like I'm part of the (player) leadership group and I think leadership starts from the top," Witten said. "I want to be a part of the process, and I'm excited to get started. I look forward to getting the work underway for another season."
While he was emotional after the Cowboys' season-ending game, he didn't have time to fully think about another year of playing in Dallas, where he already holds all-time team records for games played, passes caught and yards gained receiving. After nearly a month following the end of the 2017 campaign, Witten said he was fully committed to another season and another chance to advance to his first Super Bowl.
"2018 is going to be good year," he said.
But first was the Disney trip with his four young kids and his wife, Michelle, who all made the trip to Central Florida to celebrate Witten's 11th Pro Bowl appearance, which ties him with all-time Cowboys great Bob Lilly.
"The (Pro Bowl) has completely evolved with different venues and different locations, but the method is still the same," Witten said. "Enjoy it and build contacts and relationships and continue to work on your craft. I want to pay it back to the younger players because I learned from guys like Peyton Manning and Tony Gonzales when I was first coming up.
"To be mentioned as the best of the best (in the Pro Bowl) is an honor and a blessing."
While Lilly and Witten played in different eras and different sides of the ball, Witten said tying the record held by the player known as "Mr. Cowboy" was special.
"I know the way he approached the game and respected the other players and respected his craft," said Witten. "That's what I've always tried to do as well. It's an honor to be mentioned with him.
"I know how many great players have played for the Cowboys over the years and to have gone to 11 Pro Bowls is a great honor."
But before he could get started on his 2018 Cowboys season or even his Pro Bowl appearance this Sunday, there was the more pressing matter of a Florida family vacation.
Since the Pro Bowl moved to Orlando last year from its longtime home in Hawaii (it was even played once at Texas Stadium in the 1970s), it has allowed the players' families easier access to the wide variety of fun after the teams' brief morning workouts.
"We're excited to get going to do the family thing and do Disney," Witten said. "Some of the kids have been, but others haven't. It's good to be able to do things like this."
Cowboys fans feel the same way about getting to see Witten's Hall of Fame career up close and personal at least one more season.