Neither rain nor snow nor an injured spleen nor sprained ankles stays this Cowboys tight end from completion of his appointed start. Jason Witten always finds a way onto the field.
On Sunday, he will set one longevity record and tie another.
“He’s going to have a lot of productivity over the course of his career, receptions, yards, all those things that will rank among the greatest tight ends who ever played the game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “But for me it’s the day to day, week in, week out approach that he takes. The standard for him that he sets for himself is as high as anybody I’ve ever been around and each and every day he does everything he can to reach that standard in everything that he does. He’s a great example for the rest of our players. It’s easy to point to 82 and say, ‘Do it like he does it.’ His passion for the game is like nothing I’ve ever seen. He absolutely loves it. He wants to be great at it. He wants our team to be great. It’s not only that feeling, but it’s what he does to back that up. And the durability to be able to play week in week out in the NFL over the course of 14 years is really special. He’s demonstrated that as well as anybody I’ve ever been around.”
Witten will make his 204th career start, breaking a team record he shares with Ed Jones. It will mark Witten’s 154th consecutive start, tying Lee Roy Jordan for the longest in team history.
Witten’s last missed start came Dec. 10, 2006, when the Cowboys opened in a four-receiver formation against the Saints with Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd.
“I have so much respect for this game, especially this franchise over the last 14 years, and I know how great the players are that have come through this locker room and this organization,” Witten said Thursday. “I am humbled by that. I really do respect that and appreciative to Mr. [Jerry] Jones and the family to have this opportunity. I’ve said it a long time, but I really believe this game is about consistency and playing at a high level, and that’s what I’ve tried to do, so I acknowledge that when I have the opportunity to pass somebody like Ed. So many of those guys that played in the early part of the organization’s history are some of the toughest guys to ever play the game. Period. So I’m honored to be mentioned with them.”
Witten has played in every game in his career save one. He missed the Oct. 12, 2003, game against the Eagles with a broken jaw.
Witten ruptured his spleen in the preseason in 2012 but returned to play the season opener. Last season, he sprained both ankles, but played every game.
“Everything you want in a pro football player, you look at him,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. “How he practices. How he shows up every day in practice. It’s really impressive. There’s nothing, I think as special in this league as to watch a real pro work at football, work at his craft, when he’s beat up and sore, and they come out and they’re locked in. It’s really special. The young guys being around that, hopefully they see it. You point it out. But that’s what you want to be like in this league.”