All the years of experience Jason Witten has in the NFL still couldn’t prepare him for his return to action for the first time in 20 months.
The Cowboys tight end played his first game since Dec. 31, 2017, Saturday as Dallas defeated the Rams in their second preseason meeting, and while Witten may need some more warming up, his transition from the broadcast booth was smooth considering his break.
“A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I’ve got a lot to prove,” Witten said, per ESPN.com.
“It wasn’t perfect. I thought we’re on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It’s always tricky when you’re coming back out here … so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good.”
Witten, who came out of retirement in February to return to the Cowboys after a tepid season as a “Monday Night Football” analyst, caught just one pass for 10 yards on the first team’s only drive of the Cowboys’ 14-10 win at Aloha Stadium. But that was all he needed to feel good and comfortable.
“Doing what I love, no place I’d rather be,” Witten said. “Feel like I’m on schedule. This is the next step for us, and all through training camp, I felt good. We shall see as we move forward, but I wouldn’t bet against.”
Witten played 15 seasons for the Cowboys from 2003-17, which included 11 Pro Bowls, the most in franchise history by any offensive player before he retired and started the TV gig at ESPN. He returns with 1,152 career receptions (fourth in NFL history) and 12,448 career receiving yards (21st in league history) to go with his 68 touchdowns in that span.
The Cowboys went 10-6 in 2018, winning a wild-card game before falling to the Rams in the NFC’s divisional round.