The big news prior to the Dallas Cowboys big win over the New York Giants was that Jason Witten would take his rightful position as the starting tight end. The veteran Cowboy had not played a down since injuring his spleen in an early-August pre-season game. He had not practiced in weeks and was not 100%, despite the medical release. With all of the concussion lawsuits by former players against the National Football League, it is a bit surprising that the organization would let him play. With that said, there is no argument that the man is a “warrior” and “inspirational.” Witten is the ultimate player, but as it turns out, he could have spent another week on the bench with the same results; and most assuredly, a better performance.
The news broke sometime in the early morning of September 5, 2012. A leak on Twitter, and later denied by both the Cowboys and Witten, suggested that he asked to sign a medical waiver that would clear the Dallas Cowboys of any liability. Minutes before the game, the announcers said he was clear and would take the field. In his nine years with the Cowboys, he had missed one game; his 2003 rookie season with a broken jaw. With a CT scan in hand and his uniform packed, just in case, Witten was ready to play. He wore protective gear, so not to re-injure the area and seemed to be saying a few prayers before kick-off. Being the team leader that he is, and the much-needed additional blocker for the offensive line, he felt like playing in this game was a risk he was willing to take.
After a few series, it seemed like Witten was not 100%; however, and appeared out of breath. Keep in mind, he had not practiced in 20-some days. He looked a bit timid and avoided contact at times. Then, there was the false start. It’s very unusual to hear his name called for a penalty, so it was a bit surprising when the flag was on him. His reasons for playing are understandable. The guy just wants to play the game he loves. But in reality, he could have sat out this game and made his comeback after a week of practice and a full recovery. The Cowboys would have won the game had he watched from the sidelines.
The truth of the matter is Tony Romo, quarterback of the Cowboys, needs his favorite target. These two have been together the better part of the last decade. Witten was involved in nearly every offensive series in the first half. His blocking was impeccable. He wasn’t in on that 4th down & 1 play, but if he had been, it would have been a 1st down. He missed catching a wide open pass in the 2nd quarter, but those things happen to the best. With under three minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, he did catch a pass and pushed forward for the 1st down. Clearly, he is a fighter and the Cowboys would be less of a team without his presence.
Late in the game, he missed a block and Romo was sacked. Then, he committed a holding penalty, which could have led to an overtime situation, but it all ended up working out for the Cowboys. Could the Cowboys have won without Witten? Yes, most definitely. What he did, though, was inspire his teammates. He may have not been at his best, but he made a decision to play with his team and it fired them up. Hindsight is always 20/20, and Witten could have watched from the bench, but Cowboy fans around the world are glad he played.