Jason Witten has decided to end his retirement and return to the NFL, the Cowboys announced on Thursday.
Witten, who retired from the league last May, will rejoin the Cowboys for his 16th career season. The longtime Dallas tight end was a member of Monday Night Football's broadcast booth in 2018 before experiencing a recent change of heart.
“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 will officially sign a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cowboys, who retained his rights when he was placed on the NFL's Reserve/Retired list. he previously played 15 years for the Cowboys from 2003-2017 and was named a Pro Bowler 11 times, the most in team history by any offensive player.
ESPN thanked Witten for his time with the broadcast following the announcement.
"We thank Jason for his many contributions to Monday Night Football and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success," the company said in a statement. "We have seen many former coaches and players go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason's desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys. In the coming weeks, we will determine our MNF plans for the 2019 season."
Witten is ranked fourth in the NFL with 1,152 career receptions behind Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. His 12,448 receiving yards rank 21st in league record books, but second among tight ends behind only Gonzalez (15,127).
Witten's 239 career games played is a Cowboys franchise record. He played a full 16 games for 15 straight years, only missing one game during his career.
The Cowboys finished the 2018 season 10–6 and won a wild-card game before falling to the Rams in the NFC's divisional round.