OXNARD, Calif. – For a player entering his 14th NFL season, one might think they would all run together at some point, or the veteran would be set in his ways at this juncture of his career.
However, Jason Witten has always been a bit different.
And that's why the Cowboys entered this year's camp in a much different way, thanks to an idea Witten had a few weeks back when the City of Dallas found itself in a tragic situation involving the deadly shootings of five officers in downtown.
A few weeks back, when we had that tragedy in Dallas, I thought Mayor (Mike) Rawlings and Chief (David) Brown just did an unbelievable job of using their platform to stand up," Witten said. "So today was all about that. Our entire organization, we wanted to honor them, show tribute to the families that had lost family members and just show support and a tribute to them. It's all about uniting together as a community, and we're really following their lead for what they're all about. Everybody in this organization kind of feels that. It's great to do that on Day 1 of training camp, and I appreciate the Jones Family for bringing them out – and really to those guys for their support and leadership in handling a tragic situation."
Witten, among other team leaders, created a new mantra for the 2016 season, highlighting a stronger, more united Cowboys team. That was never more of an example than on Saturday when the players, coaches and front office personnel locked arms with some of the family members of the fallen victims, along with the Dallas Mayor and Chief of Police.
"It was a really special day, I think for everybody – as players and as an organization," Witten said. "I'd say this, it's a privilege to play in the NFL. It's a special privilege to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys, and I think that's really a gateway to special and unique experiences and opportunities for all of us as players."
Witten knows how powerful his voice can be at moments like this, something Dallas Chief of Police David O. Brown stressed during his message to the team before Saturday's first practice.
"More than anything else, it leads to a responsibility – a responsibility to the generations that have come before us and the young kids that look up to us as role models," Witten said. "Really, it's a responsibility to our community, and I think that's what everybody as players and as an organization kind of felt. So, to represent our community and to give back to it – but more than anything, the special thing about our game is that it can bring a community together. It can lift you up when you're down."
Mayor Mike Rawlings, DPD Chief David Brown, and DPD victim's families walked into the first day of training camp practice arm-in-arm.