HONOLULU — Jason Witten admitted he had more jitters than he normally would for a preseason game after 15 years in the league.
A year away from playing for the Dallas Cowboys will do that to an 11-time Pro Bowl tight end.
“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. “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 spent last year in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth but opted to return to the Cowboys in February on a one-year deal.
Witten played all 12 snaps on the Cowboys’ first drive Saturday and converted a first down with his 10-yard reception. In his final regular season game in 2017 at Philadelphia, Witten caught two passes for 17 yards in a 6-0 Dallas win.
From the offseason program to the organized team activities to the June minicamp to the 15 practices in Oxnard, California, 12 of which were in full pads, Witten has impressed the front offices, coaches and teammates in his return.
“He’s just one of those guys, incredibly reliable, had a great understanding of the game, very quarterback friendly and he comes up big in crunch time,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s done that throughout his career. It was good to see him out here, good to see him playing football, having fun playing football and getting a few snaps under his belt.”
Witten enters the season as the Cowboys’ all-time leader in games played, consecutive games played, receptions and receiving yards. By playing this season, he will have the most service time in franchise history, breaking a tie with Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Mark Tuinei and Bill Bates.
“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.”