Jason Witten officially called it a career after 15 seasons in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys.
“After much self reflection, prayer and faith, today I’ve decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys and retire from the National Football League,” Witten said at a press conference Thursday at the team’s headquarters. “I was never the most talented, never the flashiest. I relied on grit. Other players might have been more talented, but I can assure, no one was going to outwork me.”
Witten missed one game in his career — as a rookie in 2003 — and is expected to join ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth, replacing Jon Gruden.
“His humility and dependability is unmatched,” owner Jerry Jones said at the press conference. “He walks away from playing professional football the same way he walked into his profession: Confident, willing to outwork anybody — mentally, physically — capable of executing it and very prepared.”
Head coach Jason Garrett added, “He’s simply the best example I know of, of what you want a football player and a person to be, on and off the field. The number of times I told young players, veteran players, every play, ‘Watch No. 82, do it like he does it.’ It was incredible.”
Garrett attempted to persuade Witten to play another year after meeting with Jones and Witten one day before the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Dallas Morning News reported that ESPN’s offer is for $4 million to $4.5 million per year. According to sportrac.com, Witten is due to make $4,735,000 with the Cowboys in 2018. In March, he restructured his deal with the team, which runs through 2021.
Witten, 35, had 63 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns last season. He has topped 1,000 receiving yards four times in his 15-year career, and his total of 1,152 receptions ranks fourth in NFL history behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald.
When the season ended, Witten vowed to return for another season because “I love this game too much.”
An 11-time Pro Bowl performer, Witten holds a secure place in Cowboys history thanks to franchise records in games (239), catches (1,152) and receiving yards (12,448).
ESPN has been searching for Gruden’s replacement since he returned to coaching the Oakland Raiders after nine years in the booth. Auditions included Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick and NFL Network’s Kurt Warner.
–Field Level Media