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September 20, 2012

Tight ends coach John Garrett not worried about Jason Witten, who can pass Ozzie Newsome in career yards this week

Tight end Jason Witten has been the Cowboys' go-to receiver since he arrived as a third-round pick in 2003. He is among the NFL's all-time leaders at his position in catches and yards. In fact, he should pass Ozzie Newsome this week to become third among tight ends in career receiving yards.

But Witten has only six catches for 68 yards and no touchdowns this season and is tied for the NFL lead with four drops. Witten has averaged only three drops each season over the past four seasons.

Tight ends coach John Garrett, though, said there is nothing to worry about.

"He did drop passes [against Seattle], but he really played very well in the game," John Garrett said. "People don’t realize the two great, contested catches he made when he took big hits. It was a complete anomaly. There’s nothing who feels worse about it than he does. I think he can still catch the ball. You know? I think he can still do it. I think the 660 [actually 702 career catches] far outweighs the drops. He goes through seasons without dropping three balls. So it’s a complete anomaly. There’s nothing to worry about. And knowing him, the resolve that he has – he is as competitive a guy as there is in the league – this will just motivate him more, and I really think he’s going to be tough to deal with defensive for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday."

Witten lacerated his spleen in the preseason opener against the Raiders. He was cleared for contact by doctors the day before the Cowboys' season opener against the Giants, and he played 53 of 68 plays. Witten played 51 of 58 plays against Seattle and made four receptions for 58 yards.

"Jay’s been playing a long time," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "He’s been so good for us for so long. We’re just lucky to have him play at the level he’s been, so he’ll be fine."

Witten ranks third among tight ends in catches with 702. Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe had 815, and Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez has 1,161. Witten will pass Newsome for third in yards this week. Witten has 7,977 career yards, while Hall of Famer Newsome had 7,980. Gonzalez leads with 13,461, while Sharpe had 10,060.

"It’s a tremendous accomplishment," John Garrett said. "...That’s a little bit close to our heart because Ozzie Newsome was a tight end for the Cleveland Browns when my dad was on that staff coaching the running backs, and I used to watch Ozzie as a high school student and player. He was like the best tight end there ever was and now fast forward how many years and here’s a current player [passing him]. It's really an accomplishment, and it’s a great credit to how hard Wit works."

-- Charean Williams

Twitter: @NFLCharean



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