In the season opener, Jason Witten served as an inspiration to his teammates. This time, he hopes to mean even more.
Witten played in the season opener against the Giants, a day after being cleared for contact from a lacerated spleen. Witten had only two catches for 10 yards, but the Cowboys credited him for playing a big part in their 24-17 victory.
"It went down to the last minute," Witten remembered Thursday. "Obviously, looking back at this film, there is a lot of emotion with that. Probably not the healthiest I’ve ever been. Obviously, it was a situation where I found out the day before, really the night before, and I was fortunate to do that. It was a big win for our team to go on the road and beat them. Obviously, they’ve gone on to be a good team this year."
Witten lacerated his spleen in the Aug. 13 preseason opener against the Raiders on a hit by linebacker Rolando McClain. He returned to non-contact work in practice the week before the season opener, but he wasn't cleared until seeing a specialist in New York the day before the game.
He played in his 140th consecutive game, though it was not his best game. In playing 53 of 68 plays, Witten had as many penalties as catches and more penalty yards (15) than receiving yards.
"It did not surprise us that Witten [played], because he was so determined to play," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "...Having said that, we had a complete plan in place without him playing, with a different person playing his role. It was a tremendous effort and achievement on his part to play in that game. I think it speaks to the player, maybe more than anything else than I can point to in my time being with him. He was so bound and determined to play in that game. It is hard to be yourself when you have a lacerated spleen, and you haven’t practiced in a month, and then to go out there and do what he did, but that’s who he is and over the course of the next couple of weeks he got himself back to the player we’re used to seeing."
Witten is back to being himself. He has 33 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown. Only Dez Bryant has better numbers, with 36 catches for 378 yards and two touchdowns. (Miles Austin has a team-leading four touchdowns.)
He expects to be a bigger part of the offense than he was in Week 1.
"Obviously, I’m a lot more healthy than I was that first game," Witten said.
-- Charean Williams