Jason Witten is stepping out of retirement, and out of the TV announcing booth, and back into the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys legend confirming his return to the team.
The veteran tight end played 15 season with the Cowboys before retiring and appearing on ESPN’s flagship Monday Night Football broadcast last season, but he could just not settled into retirement.
The 11-time Pro Bowl selection, who is 37 in May, is signing a one-year deal with the Cowboys worth up to $5 million with add-ons as he continues his record-breaking career.
"The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong," said Witten.
"This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I'm looking forward to getting back in the dirt."
Witten had mixed reviews for his colour commentary on ESPN, mainly due to being outshone by former Dallas team-mate Tony Romo, but he’s now decide to pull on the pads once again.
"I've known for about 10 to 14 days that he was seriously deliberating this," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Cowboys happy to have Witten back
"As you know, when Jason retired last year, he had a real difficult decision. He obviously missed it. I've never seen anybody really embrace the physical part of football like Jason. He missed that. The rougher it is, the better.
"We're happy to have him. We think he can still play and he thinks he can still play."
Jones said Witten will be a serious player and not just used in certain situations, and coach Jason Garrett is adamant that he can still play to a high level in the NFL.
"I know he thought about the decision to go do Monday Night Football. He thought about it long and hard. It was a very heart-felt decision," Garrett told reporters Thursday.
"I don't think it was an easy decision for him. It was such a great opportunity, but in the long conversations we had before he made that decision, I knew he still loved to play football. There is no question in my mind he can still play at a high level.
"When he was away from it, he continued to realize that and understand that. He just decided to make this decision because he still loves the game and wanted to be a part of it."
Witten to play mentor role
ESPN will now be considering their options to replace Witten on Monday Night Football.
"We thank Jason for his many contributions to Monday Night Football and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success," ESPN said in a statement.
"We have seen many former coaches and players go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason's desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys."
Witten has the most catches in team history with 1,152 receptions and 12,448 receiving yards. He’s also the team’s all-time leader for games (239) and starts (229) and will be adding to those numbers.
Witten was still productive in his final season before retirement, catching 63 balls for 560 yards and five touchdowns and making the Pro Bowl as a first alternate.
The veteran may not play as often as he did, but will be performing a crucial mentoring role within the squad, and will be an especially welcome addition for quarterback Dak Prescott.
Witten has been an expert at getting open and providing a safety net for his quarterbacks over the years, and that will help ease the pressure on Prescott especially in big situations.