Jason Witten of the Las Vegas Raiders will play in his 271st NFL game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, setting a league record for tight ends, and this might be his last one—as a player.
The 38-year-old Witten, who came out of a one-year retirement last season to play his 16th campaign with the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Silver and Black for 2020, said he has yet to make up his mind about the future.
“I haven’t arrived at a decision with any certainty,” said Witten, who was selected by the Cowboys in the third round (No. 69 overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Tennessee. “I’ve always been a firm believer of focusing on the task at hand, which right now is this week’s game.
“I’ll take some time off, really just give myself some organic time to reflect and think through it. Certainly, I know where I’m at in my career. But regardless, it’s been a great experience out here in Las Vegas with the Raiders, a first-class organization. The players, the coaching staff, the management … they’ve earned my respect.
“Coach Gruden, I know we came up short this year, but I was proud to be a part of the football team. … I’ll take some time after this season to figure that out.”
Even if he does retire, Witten might still be with the Raiders next season and into the future.
Gruden and Witten both talked about the possibility of him coaching in the NFL.
“Yeah, I think Wit wanted to be a coach,” Gruden said when asked by Raider Maven if Witten might remain on the sidelines. “I think he’ll be a great coach. I think after seeing what we went through this year, I’d say ‘Hell no.’
“I think he’s going to get back into TV or go do something else. But yeah, I think he’d be a stellar coach. I think he’d be a Tom Landry, a Bill Cowher. I think he’s got very good football intellect, he’s got great motivational skills, he’s an excellent communicator and he loves the game.”
Witten, who spent the 2018 season as a color commentator on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, already has been doing some informal coaching.
Not only did he tutor the young tight ends late in his career with the Cowboys, but he was a mentor for young tight end Foster Moreau, and even starter Darren Waller, this season with the Raiders.
“I think that was part of my role with this team, to have an impact with the younger players, and I enjoyed it,” said Witten, who has made 13 receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns for the Raiders this season.
“I’ve learned a lot from great coaches in my career, from Bill Parcells as a rookie to Coach Gruden this season. I’ve thought about going into coaching and that’s another thing I will think about after taking some time off after the season ends on Sunday.”
The 6-6, 263-pound Witten, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time first-team All-Pro, has made 1,228 catches for 13,046 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career. His receptions and yards are second among tight ends in NFL history to Tony Gonzalez, whose record for games played Witten will break on Sunday.
Gruden watched as Witten passed knowledge from all that experience this season.
“It’s a shame you guys didn’t get a chance to see him every day,” Gruden said. “He’s been great. He’s been great for the tight ends, he’s been great for me, he’s been great for our offense.
“And unfortunately, we have not been able to have a lot of team gatherings, team meals, team meetings because of the protocols and the quarantines (because of Covid-19) and all that stuff. But he’s had a real impact on our guys.”
You know Gruden would love to have that continue next season, whether Witten plays or not.
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