If and when he sets the single-season record for catches by a tight end, Jason Witten will think about Bill Parcells.
What in the world would he say about that?
“Oh, man. I don’t know,” Witten said with a laugh Thursday at Valley Ranch.
Everyone shared a laugh with the veteran tight end, who remembers as a rookie thinking how tough it was to please the former Cowboys coach. In one story that is famous around Valley Ranch, Parcells yelled sarcastically at Witten during a blocking drill: “Oh, that’s right! You’re a receiving tight end!”
“If you were here, you knew he didn’t care for me that much,” Witten said, again with a laugh. “No, I mean that was part of a transition. First year, and he was trying to develop guys, just like you see our staff doing with young players. I was fortunate to be one of those guys who had the desire to be good and willing to work. It wasn’t like I was his guy and he patty-caked me the whole first year. It was a rough year, for sure.”
But when Witten was trying to recover from a lacerated spleen, one of the first people to call him was Parcells.
Witten again couldn’t help but smile.
“He was like my dad: ‘Take care of yourself, now. Be smart,’ ” Witten said, and he said he thought to himself: “Remember this guy? Ten years ago when I had the broken jaw? It didn’t seem like that was the same response.”
But seriously, Witten -- who goes into Sunday's game against the Saints five catches behind the NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end, 102 by Tony Gonzalez -- credits Parcells for much of the success of his career.
“Obviously he had an important part of my development as a young player,” Witten said. “From Day 1 – and I had a long way to go as a player – he believed in me and told me, ‘If you trust me, I know the formula for tight ends.’ And I was just willing to work, and he taught me a lot.”
-- Carlos Mendez