Tight end Jason Witten, the consummate professional, has seemingly left his football team in a lurch.
There’s no other way to say it.
Witten met with owner Jerry Jones on Friday morning to talk about retiring after 15 seasons with the Cowboys, so he can take a job as the lead analyst on Monday Night Football.
It’s a great opportunity, the kind of job you can’t really pass up if offered.
“I've talked to Jason Witten several times this week, met with him a few hours ago and we've had great discussions,” Jerry said in a prepared statement. “He has some things to think about and discuss with his family and he'll need a few more days of consideration. No final decision made on retirement.”
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There’s no way the Cowboys are going into the last two days of the draft with eight selections and no idea whether Witten is staying or leaving. That would be beyond dumb.
Witten, a third-round pick in 2003, has had a Hall of Fame career.
He has 1,152 career receptions, trailing only Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. He's the Cowboys all-time leader in receiving yards (12,448) and ranks 3rd in franchise history with 68 touchdown catches.
Few folks aside from, maybe Witten and Jerry, woke up Friday morning in Dallas-Fort Worth thinking this was going to happen.
Now, we’re left to piece together how one of the franchise’s greatest players left the franchise looking clueless and his teammates in a bind.
We have to piece it together because the Cowboys have vowed not to discuss it. Jerry said he declined to answer any more questions out of respect for Witten making the decision.
The truth is Witten did, as he should’ve done, what was best for his family.
Less than two weeks ago, he said he wanted to play until he was 40, when the report initially surfaced that he auditioned for Monday Night Football. Two days ago, he said he was looking forward to competing for a championship because that’s what motivated him every day.
Maybe he believed all of that when he said it; maybe he didn’t.
But the 35-year-old veteran, who’s clearly at the end of his career, has two playoff wins in his entire career. It’s OK to be selfish and take the opportunity.
But don’t let anybody tell you this didn’t take some of the organization’s most important people by surprise because it did. Perhaps, the timing threw them off. Maybe Witten broached the topic with Jerry and he kept it a secret.
But a lot of folks usually in the know were as acting just as shocked and surprised as you.
If the Cowboys knew Witten was contemplating retirement, it seems odd they did bring in any of the draft’s top tight ends for a visit. They recently restructured Witten’s contract to create salary-cap space, which is not something you do to players contemplating retirement.
And they had been building their draft around adding a receiver and trading for Seattle safety Earl Thomas. It’s a lot harder to do that, if they need to add a tight end.
But this is business. It’s always business; it’s never personal.
It was business when Cowboys cut Emmitt Smith, Terrell Owens and DeMarcus Ware.
It was business when the Cowboys asked former cornerback Brandon Carr take a pay cut, and it was business when the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant a month into free agency.
And It’s business - not personal - that Witten seems poised to loss the Cowboys and the other three tight ends on the roster have combined for just 12 catches.