Jason Witten calls his recent performance 'unacceptable'

IRVING -- The spleen is healed. The body does not hurt. He's gotten plenty of practice. He didn't come back too soon.

Jason Witten can't think of a single reason why he is underperforming.

"I wish there was a way I could say I wasn't feeling good or I'm pressing or anything like that," the Dallas Cowboys' seven-time Pro Bowl tight end said Monday at Valley Ranch, where he talked to a crowd of reporters around his locker for 12 minutes, about twice as long as a normal conversation with media.

"It's not that. That would be the easy way to really get out of it, but bottom line is, you've got to get it fixed. Unacceptable."

Witten has dropped six throws in the past two games that he got his hands on. He lost a tipped pass after sliding down for it, and he couldn't hold on to a long pass down the middle of the field with no defender very close.

Last week in Seattle, he dropped the same kind of seam pass.

"Plays you make your whole career. ... Crushes me that I didn't," he said.

Coming two weeks after an inspirational return in the season opener from a spleen tear that knocked him out of preseason action, the sight of Witten dropping balls, being beaten in pass protection and committing two false starts as he did Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is jarring.

"He has dropped the football the last couple of weeks in a way we have never seen," coach Jason Garrett said, acknowledging the problem but leaning on Witten's track record.

"We believe a lot in the body of work," he said. "You can say that game or the last couple of games, boy, is he a different player. I'd like to believe he is the guy who has been playing on this team the last 10 years."

Witten went into the game promising to make up for the previous game. Instead, he created more questions about what's wrong with one of the franchise's most dependable players ever and whether he might simply be slowing down, spleen injury or not.

"I think every player, regardless of the sport, they go through adversity at some point. Obviously this is it for me," Witten said. "It's a point in your career, everything's going to be asked -- is he slowing down, is he not able to handle it, all that stuff. In my mind, it's ridiculous."

But for the first time, he is answering critical questions about his own play. He has only one answer for it. It's his fault and he'll fix it.

"I thought I handled that last week and fixed it and addressed it. Obviously, I didn't do a good enough job," he said. "You've got to go in there on Sunday knowing that the work's been put in. You can't second-guess yourself. You can't press. That's what I'll do and do it tirelessly until it gets fixed."

Witten said part of preparing is he is trying to make sure he's doing the right things when he is in a pass pattern.

"Where are my eyes when I'm in those situations? What am I thinking about?" he said. "Ultimately, I've just got to get it fixed. I mean, hands are in the right spot, it's a good ball, just didn't make it. ... Not all of them are perfect opportunities where it's just between the 8 and the 2, and you catch it and you go on, you know. But plays I expect to make, plays that you see week in and week out in the NFL, and I haven't made them over the last two weeks. I take full responsibility for it, and rest assured that I'm going to get it fixed."

He said his teammates have been supportive, but he understands if they -- and particularly quarterback Tony Romo -- wonder if he's OK.

"I'm sure he's wondering what's wrong," Witten said. "At the end of the day, those are big plays for him, big plays for our offense, especially when you're struggling. Nah, they've all been positive, good teammates. Obviously, I'm sure they're concerned, and rightfully so. But ultimately you've got to find a way to get it done."

Witten said the big hit he took on a catch in Seattle, and the potential for other big hits, is not on his mind.

"Hey, look, every catch you make at tight end, you're expecting to get hit," he said.

Witten admits he's not guaranteed more throws if he's not catching balls.

"You don't just get built in to get those throws next week and next time because of what that number is on the back of the jersey," he said. "It's a show-me game. I've got to go show it and prove it just like every other player. That's what I'm going to do."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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