Witten play gutsy, but too risky for week 1

Cowboys vs. Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05: Linebacker Keith Rivers #55 of the New York Giants gets blocked by tight end Jason Witten #82 while trying to tackle running back DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)



WFAA Sports Blogger

Posted on September 6, 2012 at 8:49 AM

 To borrow from Kellen Winslow Jr., the Jason Witten is a soldier.

While there is nothing novel about players working through pain, the Cowboys’ tight end has endured more than a few cringe-invoking injuries and soldiered on. In October 2008, Witten suffered a fractured rib and armored up to play the very next week and for the remainder of the season. During that same season, Witten suffered a shoulder injury but continued to play. In 2003, his rookie year, Witten missed the one and only game of his NFL career with a broken jaw.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Witten would not play in the Cowboys 2012 season opener, still ailing from a lacerated spleen suffered in the team's first preseason game. Head Coach Jason Garrett said Witten would be a game-time decision if medically cleared to play by doctors. Almost two hours before kickoff against the New York Giants, rumblings began that Witten was in fact active for the game. The Cowboys initially took a cautious path with their seven-time Pro Bowler, with reason. A lacerated spleen could take an even worse turn with the wrong contact during a game.
While Witten’s will to play is inspirational and makes for another great “can you believe it” storyline, it did not seem necessary with 15 games remaining in the season. Why not allow him more time to fully recover and be more effective should the Cowboys contend for the playoffs later?
The argument about a player’s intangibles always seems to surface in situations like Witten’s. There is no question his veteran presence on the field is essential to the Cowboys' offense. There is no question that his heart and determination speak of vast courage. A victory against a division rival and the defending Super Bowl champion may be even more important later in the season, but at what cost now to Witten?
The 2008 rib injury came at a point during that season when the Cowboys were still in contention, though they ultimately fell short of a playoff appearance. There is a long road ahead for the 2012 season and a healthier and stronger Witten may be more of value in Week 15 than Week 1.
Witten was a statistical non-factor during Wednesday night’s game. He finished the game with just two receptions for 10 yards.
Witten has now played in 140 consecutive games, a stat that is impressive for any player but particularly for Witten given the nature of his injuries. That streak, however should take a backseat to the most important factor in his career and his life: health.