New tight ends coach wants more from Witten

05/19/2014 9:30 PM

05/19/2014 10:00 PM

New Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach Mike Pope is “nit-picking” with him, but Jason Witten said it’s for his own good.

“He’s been honest with me in trying to really push me to ‘Let’s even take this to another level,’ ” Witten said of his new coach, a 32-year veteran NFL assistant who started with the Giants under Bill Parcells in 1983. He was on the staff of all four of the Giants’ Super Bowl championship teams.

“I appreciate that challenge and the way he’s gone about it,” Witten said. “I know he’s kind of the guru of tight end coaches.”

Pope, speaking at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp last weekend, said Witten is an ideal model of habits for younger players, but that there are no “zero-defect” players.

“I’m excited, and he’s excited — he says he is, anyway; I don’t know him to be anything but truthful, but there are some areas that he’s hoping, and I believe we can help him, with the years that I’ve been doing this with all different types of players,” Pope said. “So I’m looking forward to keeping him on an upward spiral and then bringing Gavin Escobar and James Hanna along and fill in more of those spots with more production.”

Two years ago, Witten set an NFL record for catches in a single season by a tight end with 110. Last year, his eight touchdown catches were his second-highest total for a single season.

“His picture of running a route is worth an hour of classroom for me because that’s how you do it,” Pope said.

Pope said the free agents and rookie tight ends were told last weekend, “Just look at that, and just simply be a mirror of that player, and you’ll be pretty close to right.”

The undrafted rookie free agents are Jordan Najvar of Baylor and Evan Wilson of Illinois.

Witten, who turned 32 on May 6, acknowledges he has less time ahead of him in his career than he does behind.

“There’s always room to improve,” Witten said. “He’s nit-picking for sure, but that’s what I like about him.”

Roster move

The Cowboys made the signing of free-agent running Ryan Williams official Monday after they released rookie free agent running back Glasco Martin of Baylor to open a roster spot.

Williams is expected to compete with Joseph Randle for the backup running back spot behind starter DeMarco Murray.

Williams was originally drafted in the second round (38th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. A torn right patella tendon in the preseason put his rookie season to an end, and he spent the entire season rehabbing the injury.

He returned in 2012 to start three of the five games he played, rushing 58 times for 164 yards before a left shoulder injury ended his season.

In 2013 Williams returned to the Cardinals, but was inactive all 16 games. He was released by Arizona on May 12.

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