FRISCO, Texas — The Jason Witten era is expected to come to an end for the Dallas Cowboys.
Witten is on the verge of joining ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” as its lead analyst, sources confirmed. ESPN reported Witten’s imminent decision first.
Witten, who turns 36 on May 6, is scheduled to meet with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Friday about the decision to walk away from the game. Barring a last-minute change of heart, Witten will inform Jones he’s calling it a career.
Jones addressed Witten’s status briefly during a news conference to introduce first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch. Jones said Witten had not made any “definitive” decisions on his future.
Witten “has some things to think about and discuss with his family from a professional standpoint,” Jones said.
Less than 10 days ago, Witten made it clear that he intended to play a 16th season. He went as far as saying he wanted to play until he was 40.
After last season’s finale at Philadelphia, Witten said: “I know this: The burn is strong inside me to play at a high level and to be a part of one of these groups of guys and one of the leaders to see this thing through and go try to compete for a championship.
“When I wake up tomorrow, that’s where my focus will be on as I move forward. It hurts because you don’t get a whole lot more opportunities at this and I realize that. But rest assured that I’m going to do everything in my power to help us be better as we move forward. And I think it needs to be clear that it starts with yourself.”
Plans to play another year, though, have changed. Witten will join his former teammate, Tony Romo, in going straight from the field to the broadcast booth. Romo left last offseason to become CBS Sports’ lead NFL analyst.
Witten leaves the team after 15 years in which he put together a Hall of Fame career.
He is a member of the 1,000-catch club with 1,152, went to 11 Pro Bowls and started 229 of 239 career games.
Witten is the Cowboys’ franchise leader in receiving yards with 12,448 yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 68.
Witten holds several other team records, too, including consecutive games with a catch (130), most consecutive games played (235), most games played (239) and most consecutive games started (179).
The last time Witten didn’t start a Cowboys game? Dec. 10, 2006.
More than that, Witten was the unquestioned leader of the team. He is the player the organization pointed to for youngsters to follow.
Witten won the 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year award, and is now the namesake for a similar award in the college ranks.