Stop the Hall of Fame clock. Or better yet, just pause for the moment.
That's because Jason Witten decided he was not done playing yet.
Although he retired from the NFL last May, the future Hall of Fame returns to the Cowboys for his 16th professional season. Witten played 15 years for the Cowboys from 2003 to 17, including 11 Pro Bowls, the team's record by all offensive players.
But after suddenly deciding to hang up the cleats last May and join the broadcast booth of Monday night football, Witten apparently had a turnaround. He will return to the field and formally sign a contract with the Cowboys, who retained his rights when he was placed on the NFL Reserves / Retirees list.
"The fire inside me to play and play this game burns too hard," Witten said in a statement. "This team has a group of young rising stars and I want to help them qualify for a championship. It was completely my decision and I am very comfortable with that. I can not wait to get back in the mud. "
Witten will join a Cowboys team that finished 10-6 and won a wild card game before losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC division round.
While the Cowboys have a lot of young talents and a list of players with eight selections for the Pro Bowl, there remains a question mark on the agenda – a question that was probably answered for the moment. Witten returns to a tight final position that includes contracted Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, as well as Rico Gathers. Geoff Swaim, who started the nine matches he played, is an unrestricted free agent and may not be a top priority to sign again, now that Witten is back.
In fact, drawing a tight end might not be a priority as well, given the youth and potential of Jarwin and Schultz, who now enjoy the luxury of learning from one of the best players to have never held this position.
Witten retired with 1,152 career receptions, which rank fourth in the history of the NFL, behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. His 12,448 rushing yards rank 21st in league records, but ranks second in tight behind Gonzalez (15,127).
More than simple statistics, Witten ensures consistency, not only with its numbers, but also with its availability. His 239 career games are a franchise record with the Cowboys. He has played 16 full-fledged games for 15 consecutive years, missing only one game in his career, dating back to his rookie season in 2003.