Jason Witten ends retirement and returns to Cowboys
Future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten will return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season, ending his retirement after one season in the broadcast booth.
The surprising turn of events comes after Witten initially called time on his career last year and joined ESPN as an analyst on Monday Night Football.
However, the reaction to his performance as a co-commentator was lukewarm and a desire to help the Cowboys push for a sixth Super Bowl title has led Witten to resume his playing career.
"The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong," Witten said in a statement on the Cowboys' official website.
"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."
An ESPN statement read: "We thank Jason for his many contributions to 'Monday Night Football' and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success.
"We have seen many former players and coaches go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason's desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys."
Without Witten, the Cowboys were 10-6 in 2018, winning a Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks before falling to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC's Divisional round.
Witten, who will turn 37 in May, played 15 seasons for the Cowboys from 2003 until 2017, which included 11 Pro Bowls, the most in franchise history by any offensive player, before his abrupt retirement last May.
The Cowboys retained his rights when he was placed on the NFL's Reserve/Retired list.
Witten brings back with him 1,152 career receptions, fourth in NFL history, behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. His 12,448 receiving yards rank 21st in the league record books but second among tight ends behind only Gonzalez (15,127).
He will also add to his Cowboys record of 239 career games played. Witten appeared in all 16 regular-season games for 15 straight seasons after the 2003 campaign.
Witten bolsters a Dallas tight end depth chart that includes Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, along with Rico Gathers. Geoff Swaim, who started all nine of the games in which he played last season, is an unrestricted free agent.