Only 23 days earlier, the five-time All Pro tight end suffered a lacerated spleen during a preseason game.
But Dallas didn’t rule him out, and Witten — risks be damned — sought clearance any way possible to allow him to play on Wednesday night. Witten did play, and he helped a beleaguered offensive line create a few holes for running back DeMarco Murray and give quarterback Tony Romo a few extra seconds to evade New York’s relentless pass rush.
Witten is tough, there’s no doubting that. But was the decision to let him play worth the risk?
“Witten is the ultimate warrior,” Dallas linebacker Sean Lee told ESPN after the game. “He’s the ultimate teammate. He’s the ultimate tight end. He’s the ultimate leader. He really is the leader of our team in a lot of ways, and to see him come out here when he thought there was a high probability of him not playing, he went to every last effort to play in this game. That just shows the type of commitment he has. He’s the leader we all look up to.”
Three weeks ago Cowboys coach Jason Garrett described Witten’s injury as “very serious.”
“As you can imagine, spleens are internal organs, and there’s serious injuries involved with those things,” Garrett said. “Asking Wit to be still and idle is a hard thing; that’s the biggest challenge right now.”
Had Witten sat out Wednesday, he would have had 10 more days to recover before the Cowboys’ Week 2 game against Seattle. And with his importance as a blocker and Romo’s most reliable target, holding him out for one more game to give his “internal organs” a few extra days to mend seems like a reasonable idea.
But Witten was cleared to play by a New York doctor, allowing him to take the field for his 140th straight game.
Against the Giants, Witten caught two balls for 10 yards and his holding call in the final minutes nearly cost Dallas a chance to seal the win. But judging by the post-game comments from his teammates, his presence alone helped spark the Cowboys to victory. And assuming he doesn’t suffer any setbacks this week, Dallas can argue the risk of playing Witten was worth the reward.
What do you think? Should Witten have played or should Dallas have insisted he sit this one out?