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Jason Witten sets franchise record for receiving yards

Jason Witten became the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving yards Sunday night.
Jason Witten became the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving yards Sunday night. rmallison@star-telegram.com

Jason Witten put his name atop another Dallas Cowboys record — most career receiving yards.

Witten had an 11-yard reception in the second quarter to set the record against the New York Giants on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium. Witten needed only 17 yards to pass Michael Irvin’s mark of 11,904. He also tied Ed “Too Tall” Jones for most games played (224) in Cowboys history.

The veteran tight end caught a 7-yard pass on the Cowboys’ first possession, and broke the record on the 11-yard catch in the second quarter. Witten’s record-breaking catch came on a field-goal drive for the Cowboys that put them up 6-0.

Witten then scored on a 12-yard catch later in the first half to put the Cowboys up 13-0. It marked Witten’s 14th career TD reception against the Giants, his most against any opponent. He now has 64 TD catches in his career.

Witten, the 35-year-old in his 15th season, already owns the club record for most receptions and is tied with Irvin for most seasons leading the team in receptions with eight.

“I’m honored to be able to pass it,” Witten said earlier this week. “I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of those NFL records and they’re always special, especially when you understand the storied history of the NFL. But I don’t know, I guess being around here for so long, maybe as much as anything is the team records. I think it’s just getting to know the guys, being a fan of them, so many great players to come in and play for this organization.

“Michael represented that, the stories I’ve heard that he emptied the bucket every single day. That’s certainly what I’ve tried to do.”

Irvin couldn’t agree more and will be among the first to congratulate Witten on his accomplishment.

“For what he’s done — sustainability, consistency, the way he’s carried himself,” Irvin said last month. “When I first retired and I was going over to Valley Ranch to work out, I would look out onto that field and the only people I’d see working out is Jason Witten and Tony Romo.

“That right there, when Jason Witten is becoming what he is becoming, I’m OK with that because I know it’s not just physical talent. It was will and determination and hard work. Hey, that’s what I’m about. That’s what he’s about, so us being up there together is great.”

Witten remains the clear-cut leader in the Cowboys’ locker room. He’s a 10-time Pro Bowler with Hall of Fame credentials who still makes defensive backs look silly at times in practice.

Safety Kavon Frazier compared him to NBA great Kobe Bryant. Fellow safety Byron Jones knows covering Witten every day in practice has helped him be able to contain opposing tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski.

Witten might not be flashy like other tight ends of his generation such as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, but he’s been consistently productive throughout his career.

“He’s not a flashy player and he doesn’t have to be,” Jones said. “He’s a true football player. He’s one of the last few true tight ends. … He’s the definition of true toughness. He’s been around 15 years and has played well. It’s been remarkable.”

The Cowboys’ coaching staff can’t say enough good things about Witten. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan called him the best NFL player he’s been around when it comes to the “whole package.”

Coach Jason Garrett also raved about Witten for two straight days at his news conference.

Asked for Witten’s greatest attribute, Garrett said: “Just his approach. His approach to life. His approach to football. Showing up every day and being his best every minute of every day. He loves the game. It’s all derived from his love for the game. It’s also the discipline he has as a person that reflects in his execution.”

The Cowboys beat the Giants 19-3 Sunday night.

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