The sign taped to Jason Witten's locker said more than he did about the toughness and heart it took to play Wednesday, a day after a specialist in New York cleared the All-Pro tight end to return to contact.
"I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My team expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than our competition. If knocked down, I will get back up every time. I will draw on every remaining source of strength to help my team and to accomplish our goal.
"I am never out of the FIGHT."
Witten said the inspirational quote came from the team's meeting with the Navy SEALS in San Diego during training camp.“I felt like a little bit of it was out of my hands [as far as whether he could play], but I think this is something I will remember,” Witten said. “I think this is the way you’re supposed to play. It’s been three weeks since I’ve gotten out and played, so definitely some areas I can clean up in my game. I was glad to be able to get out there and play.”
Witten sat out just one series, and though he had as many penalties (2) as catches and more penalty yards (15) than receiving yards, he served as an inspiration for his teammates.
"That's what the game's about to Jason, going out there and being a gladiator and playing for the guy that's beside you," Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "It really shows us how important the game is to him, and this team is to him."
Witten lacerated his spleen in the Aug. 13 exhibition opener against the Raiders. He returned only 23 days later despite being listed as doubtful Tuesday when the team issued its final injury report for the week.
Witten celebrated Tuesday when he was given medical clearance to return, though he and the Cowboys kept the news quiet.
“I tried to keep my composure pretty good,” Witten said, “but I was like a kid on Christmas day, to say the least.”
He did play with extra padding around his midsection, and afterward, Witten said he felt good.
“There’s not a lot you can do with [the pain],” Witten said. “I felt pretty good. Obviously the times you’re blocking JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul], it’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it felt good. We’re excited to get the win and now there’s 10 days to get healthy and get on to Seattle.”
He vows to be even better next week.
-- Charean Williams