ARLINGTON - Jason Witten is trying to not give any hints about his future, and so we won't make the mistake of trying to guess. But the Dallas Cowboys' iconic tight end, following Sunday's end-of-season meeting with Washington, did offer an open-ended take the possibility of retirement.
“If this is the end,'' Witten said after the Cowboys (8-8) beat Washington 47-16 but were officially eliminated from playoff contention by the Eagles’ division-clinching win at the Giants. I’m really proud of how I played today and hold my head up high.''
Witten, a 16-year veteran, mentioned the disappointment in not having "that opportunity to hold up a trophy, to bring that to the Jones family, to bring that back to Dallas. It's hard.''
And he even offered an apology to Cowboys Nation for Dallas' 2019 failures.
“I apologize to the Dallas Cowboys fans out there,” he said. “I came back (after a season off to work for ESPN) to try to help this football team compete for a championship and we found out today that we won’t have that opportunity. And that hurts.''
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Witten shared emotional moments with teammates Sean Lee, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and others - including family members and a cluster of Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium. The future Hall-of-Famer said he will “take a few days and figure out what’s next.''
Broadcasting will not be "what's next.'' The Jones family will surely be open to him returning to the 2020 roster. But if he opts to go into coaching (something he has said he wants to do "right here,'' meaning the NFL and probably meaning Dallas), Jerry and Stephen Jones won't want him plying his trade in another NFL city.
At the same time, gossip that would have Witten as a "top-three finalist'' not only seems premature but also foolish. The Jones family hired Jason Garrett a decade ago knowing he'd have to learn on the job, something Jerry started bemoaning about three years ago. The idea of replacing Garrett with a man with literally zero coaching experience seems odd.
But all of that is an issue for "the next few days,'' Witten's timetable on making a playing-career decision. For now, the 37-year-old Witten, who started all 16 games this year, has earned some time to reflect.
“I’m so thankful to everybody in the organization, starting with the Jones family, for that opportunity,'' Witten said in the AT&T Stadium locker room. "One of the best decisions I made was listening to my gut to come back and play. Sure, that decision can be picked apart in different ways, but I’m really proud of the way I played. I love this game.''