Jason Garrett has "no doubt" tight end Jason Witten can still play at a high level in the NFL, the Cowboys head coach said on Thursday at the NFL combine.
Witten caught the football world by surprise when he announced Thursday that he was ending his retirement and rejoining the Cowboys in 2019 for his 16th 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.
When asked about Witten's return, Garrett confirmed it had been a topic of conversation for weeks ahead of the official announcement.
"It was a great opportunity he had at ESPN to go be the lead analyst on Monday Night Football, but I think playing football still tugged at his heart," Garrett said. “I think he felt like there was still some meat on the bone, things he wanted to accomplish. And I just think he loves it and wants to be in this environment."
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. 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.
Garrett said the biggest talking point between he and Witten was the tight end's physical readiness to play. Witten will turn 37 in May.
"He knows his body more than anybody else," Garrett said. "He knows the demands of the game more than anybody else to make an honest assessment of where he was physically. He was able to do that over the last few weeks. There’s no doubt in his mind that he can still play, and there’s no doubt in my mind he can still play. I’m excited to have him back."
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.