OXNARD, Calif. — Jason Witten’s spleen injury has the Dallas Cowboys scrambling for help at the tight end position while also hoping the All-Pro’s recovery does not impact his availability for the team’s regular-season opener on Wednesday, Sept. 5 against the Giants. Witten suffered the injury during a preseason game with the Oakland Raiders.
The star tight end caught a short pass from quarterback Tony Romo and was immediately tackled by linebacker Rolando McClain. Witten was slow to his feet, but returned for the next series and caught a pass for an 8-yard gain. After the game, he talked of the tackle and reported no ill effects and team owner Jerry Jones breathed a sigh of relief.
“I held my breath,” Jones said, “when I saw Witten take that lick.”
And now the organization does the same for the all-time great Witten, who in his nine NFL seasons has 696 catches for 7,909 yards and 41 touchdowns.
With a spleen injury, shock sets in and a signal of the seriousness of the injury comes only after internal bleeding is discovered. As of Wednesday morning, the Cowboys remained running tests on the injury. The immediate hope for Witten — an NFL tough guy who has missed one game in his career and has played with a broken jaw — is that his spleen is not ruptured.
Witten will likely miss the remainder of the preseason, and with backup tight end John Phillips working to recover from an ankle injury, the Cowboys are thin at the position. Rookies James Hanna, who has performed well at camp, and Andrew Szczerba could be looked upon to step up.
The Cowboys signed Harry Flaherty, a 23-year-old street free agent who, as ESPN reports, is the nephew of head coach Jason Garrett. Flaherty, who was on the field during Wednesday’s workout, played at Princeton (as did Garrett) and has been in the Cowboys and Saints camps.
The team could release injured backup offensive lineman Bill Nagy or a bottom-of-the-roster player to make room.