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DALLAS It s been a little over seven weeks since the Cowboys season came to an end with a loss in Washington.

Since that time, tight end Jason Witten has been spending lots of time working for his Jason Witten Score Foundation, which earned him the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

"That's got to be up there," Witten says. "As I said when I won, every day you wake up trying to help your team and be the best player you can be winning a championship and, along the way, you've got a great opportunity to give back and provide an opportunity to those that are less fortunate."

Since Witten last caught a pass in a regular season game, the Cowboys coaching staff has undergone a major off-season overhaul, moves that he hopes will lead to a better team.

"When those things happen, it s because we're pushing for something more," Witten said. "I think the goal is to compete for a championship next year. Obviously, there are two ways to look at it. One way is to say we're close in a lot of ways, we played for the division the last two years... but at the same time, 8-and-8 is not going to cut it in this league. We know that."

Witten's new tight ends coach is Wes Phillips, a man who may have the best job in world right now. He was asked a tongue-in-cheek question as to show he plans to fix Witten: "'Fix Witten?' Ha, I'll try not to mess him up too much."

Last month, Witten made his eighth appearance in the Pro Bowl. He's convinced that extending quarterback Tony Romo's contract which has been talked about a lot this off-season is the right thing to do.

"Yeah, I was encouraged to hear that. I've said it a lot... nobody has endorsed him more than I have," Witten said. "I think he's an elite quarterback. I think when this thing is finally written at the end of it, we'll be proud of what he's accomplished, and that's competing for championships."

In the meantime, those championships seem light years away.

E-mail griba@wfaa.com

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