Jason Witten has played his last game.
Okay, he probably hasn't. But he will miss all preseason and the conditioning that comes with it. For the next couple of weeks, he can't even ride a stationary bike. Witten's as tough as they come, when you recall the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007 when he sprinted almost 50 yards without his helmet, and that he has missed only one game in his 10-year career due to a broken jaw his rookie season.
Most spleen injuries are the result of blunt trauma force. If there's one thing football has, it's plenty of blunt trauma. It's fascinating that injuries of this type don't occur more often. Witten's injury occurred while receiving a pass from quarterback Tony Romo on a busted play. Football is a rough sport. It's nobody's fault.
The Cowboys aren't immune to the injury bug; they are no different from any other team in the league. Some teams have lost a handful of starters after just one preseason game. Witten's value to the Cowboys, both as a player and a leader, cannot be undervalued; he is perhaps the best skill player on the team, next to DeMarcus Ware. Dallas won't find players like him on the open market, because teams rarely give them up. A blocking/receiving tight end is hard to find in the NFL.
If at all possible, Jason Witten will return as soon as he is medically cleared to do so.
"It's hard ... just thinking about sitting in that hotel when the team is working," Witten said. "It's a challenge. Ultimately, it's the best thing you can do for the team. We've got plenty of guys to pick up the slack. That's not a concern. For me, I think it's just get healthy as quickly as you can. We'll regroup when we get back to Dallas."
He returned to play in Dallas' third series against the Raiders, more than likely because the exact injury wasn't known, and playing through pain is what Witten does best. The fact that surgery won't be needed has to be a huge relief; it doesn't mean necessarily that he will be back any time soon. Returning too soon, not fully healed, and the Giants may finish what someone else started.
In the meantime, the Cowboys brought in another tight end.
Proving that nepotism really does have its place in the workforce, they decided to bring in Princeton alum Harry Flaherty, nephew of head coach Jason Garrett, formerly of Princeton, and tight ends coach John Garrett.
Bringing in Flaherty may raise some eyebrows, but what choice did they really have? Were there other, more seasoned players available? Maybe so, but you can't blame Jones and Garrett for going after some cheap talent, in hopes that Witten will return, hopefully in time for the season opener against the defending Super Bowl Champions New York Giants.
Harry Flaherty sees this as a golden opportunity, a chance to prove himself capable of playing on the big stage.
"Just being able to line up a lot of different places, I think that was my appeal coming out of college," Flaherty said. "I didn't have huge stats or anything, but I played fullback, played the slot, played tight end, so however they want me to plug in camp, we'll see how it goes."
And there's no bigger stage than playing in front of millions of fans on national television for the notorious Dallas Cowboys.