BOSTON (CBS) — The inaugural “Monday Night Football” season featuring Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland did not exactly draw rave reviews from most football fans, but ESPN made the decision to bring back the trio for another year in 2019.
Now, though, Witten has changed those plans.
The tight end is coming out of retirement to play for the Cowboys in 2019, the team announced Thursday.
“Witten has apparently had a change of heart,” the team’s official website said. “He will return to the field and officially sign a contract with the Cowboys, who retained his rights when he was placed on the NFL’s Reserve/Retired list.”
Witten, who will turn 37 years old in May, caught 63 passes for 650 yards and five touchdowns in 2017, playing and starting in all 16 regular-season games for Dallas. In his 15-year career, he’s only missed one game — and that was back in his rookie season of 2003.
Last year, the Cowboys didn’t get much production in the passing game from tight ends. Blake Jarwin caught 27 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns, while Geoff Swaim caught 26 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “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 ranks fourth all time in receptions (1,152), 21st in receiving yards (12,448) and tied for 47th in touchdown receptions (68).
Witten spoke to The Athletic in December about a report that said the Cowboys had reached out to Witten about the possibility of returning to the team for a playoff run.
“I’m flattered that [the Cowboys] would have considered it,” Witten said. “I’m committed to what I’m doing and getting better and improving and this [broadcast] team.”
Also in that story, Witten said: “I think it’s a long-term plan. I think a lot of people always assumed that I would get into coaching or management and all that kind of stuff at some point, and I don’t know that’s the case. I think that the biggest thing for me is you can’t allow noise to get in the way of what your goals are and what you want to do. I understand what the narrative is, and I’m committed to the long-game approach of being [a broadcaster].”
Cowboys fans will surely celebrate the return of Witten to the field, while the rest of America ponders just who might replace Witten in the broadcast booth.