Cowboys TE Jason Witten returns to Oakland with his spleen healed, “a better person and better player”

Posted Thursday, Aug. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Before Wes Phillips showed his players film of last year’s preseason opener at Oakland, the tight ends coach had to clear it with Jason Witten.

“Wes saw me [Tuesday] night and he said, ‘Hey, are you superstitious or any of that stuff, because we’re going to be watching film?’” Witten said. “It took me a while to kind of catch on. I’m like, ‘Oh, the play.’

“He kind of went fast on it. We watched it, but it wasn’t much rewind to it. We fast-forwarded pretty quick.”

“The play” was the first-quarter hit Witten took from Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain in the Aug. 13 exhibition. Though he didn’t know until the next day, Witten had lacerated his spleen.

He was in bed for two weeks at the team hotel, wondering just how many games he might miss, all the while vowing to be back for the season opener against the New York Giants.

“We stood right outside that cafeteria about three minutes after he heard the news about what it actually was,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He said, ‘I’m playing in that Giant game.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘What are you going to do the next couple of weeks?’ He said, ‘I have to be motionless in my bed for two weeks.’ I was like, ‘Huh, this will be interesting timing.’

“But he’s an amazing guy. Forget 110 catches. Forget eight-time Pro Bowl. Forget all that stuff. When you tell the Witten story, I start with that one because I think he showed what he’s all about and what he’s been doing for a long time in this league. I think it’s a great example for the rest of our football team and really for the rest of humanity in the whole NFL. That’s how you do it. He’s really a tough guy, an amazing guy, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Witten did play against the Giants, though he caught only two passes for 10 yards while drawing two penalties for 15 yards. The rest was history.

He caught 110 passes for the season, a record for an NFL tight end.

Witten and the Cowboys revisit Oakland on Friday night with their second exhibition game.

“I hope and pray for a different outcome, that’s for sure,” Witten said. “That was just a situation that happens when you play. I don’t think you worry about that. It’s just an unfortunate situation. But we’ve run that play a lot of times and never had that come up.

“I can’t really think about it. It was a long three weeks, I know that, but I’m a better person, a better player because of it for sure.”

Not offended

Mackenzy Bernadeau did not take the Cowboys’ pursuit of Brandon Moore personally. Moore agreed to terms with the Cowboys on Tuesday but retired Wednesday morning before reporting.

The Cowboys pursued Moore to compete with Bernadeau for the right guard spot.

“I’m confident in my ability and what I can do,” Bernadeau, 27, said. “I’m focused on getting better every day and being prepared to play.”

Bernadeau, who signed a four-year, $11 million contract as a free agent last off-season, started all 16 games last season.

However, he has missed a lot of practice time with three surgeries since arriving in Dallas.

Bernadeau still is struggling with a hamstring injury he suffered in the conditioning test on the first day of training camp, though he returned to practice Friday.

“He’s getting there,” Jason Garrett said. “He’s a little rusty. There’s no question about that. The difficult thing with Mackenzy is he played a lot of football for us last year during the season. ... But he missed the off-season leading up to last season, and he’s missed this off-season. So when you miss a lot of that time, that’s really when you can grow and develop.

“He’s still a young player. He has not started that many games. But injuries have bothered him since he’s been here. So he’s just getting back into the mix again. I think he’s practiced OK. He’s trying to knock some rust off.”

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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