The Dallas Cowboys were able to pull off an upset win on the road over the New York Giants in Week 1 of NFL play without a healthy Jason Witten, but the team needs the All-Pro tight end healthy to make a serious playoff run in 2012. After being limited in practice and in playing for a month, Witten was a full participant in the Cowboys’ Wednesday practice. However, he’s not home free yet after injuring his spleen in early August.
Witten still has to wear protective padding around his torso, similar to the “rib pads” most quarterbacks use all the time. Although his spleen, which was lacerated in the Cowboys’ first preseason game, is nearly healed, Witten still feels discomfort from the injury and is aware that he could possibly re-aggravate it.
“I guess you can never say never as far as always being 100 percent sure, but I think it’s one of those deals where you don’t know when those situations are going to come up,” Witten said.
Witten played well in the Cowboys’ win over the Giants despite catching only two passes for 10 yards on three targets. He blocked well and his routes were crisp as the injury didn’t hinder him like many had feared it would. Fortunately for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree all shouldered the pass-catching load and Dallas didn’t really miss Witten. However, that won’t always be the case.
Witten is much more than arguably the best security blanket in the league; he’s a go-to guy that can be trusted on obvious passing plays in which the Cowboys’ offense must have a big play. He doesn’t run for a ton of yards and a touchdown every time, but Witten catches the ball consistently whether he’s wide open or double covered.
The Cowboys are off to a great start to the 2012 season, but it’s only Week 2. Dallas must beat the Seattle Seahawks on the road to prove the Giants game was no fluke and having Witten at full strength will make that process a lot easier. The Cowboys have several areas in which they need to improve even after the Giants game, including penalties and third down conversions. Witten can certainly help with the latter, but he must be healthy. Wednesday’s practice was a good sign, but he’s not “out of the woods yet” as Cowboys writer Nick Eatman put it.