Witten a HOF player, individual, Garrett says

ARLINGTON, Texas – Jason Witten was the last member of the Dallas Cowboys out of the locker room after Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He walked with a limp to the elevator, and disappointment was etched all over his face. Moments after the game, he had sat at his locker with a towel draped over his head.

He did not speak after the game. What could he say that he had not said in 2011 and 2012 when the Cowboys got to Week 17 only to lose NFC East deciders to the New York Giants and Washington Redskins?

Witten caught a season-high 12 passes for 135 yards in the loss to the Eagles. He had a season-long 34-yard catch. He finished the season with 73 catches for 851 yards and eight touchdowns and was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl. Only Tony Gonzalez has had more 70-catch seasons than Witten, who has eight, including seven in a row. He has had seven straight seasons with at least 800 yards, which is also second all-time among tight ends behind Gonzalez.

Yet as he looks to his 12th season, Witten has one playoff win.

“He’s a great football player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s the best tight end in football and has been for 10 years. He’s just a helluva player, as special a guy as I’ve ever been around. He just is a unique individual. It’s no surprise to me or any of us that he played as well as he did in this big game for us. That’s what he’s done his whole life. He’s a great example to his teammates, a great example to his coaches about how to do things, and I love him.

“I love him to death. He just does things the right way. He puts more into this than anybody I know. His commitment is as strong as anybody’s and it’s just disappointing for him. Again, he can walk out of the locker room with his head high and shoulders back because he does [it] the right way and he’s done it the right way for a long time. He’s going to be a Hall of Fame player, and he’s a Hall of Fame individual as well.”

Sunday was the 171st straight game for Witten, tying him for third in team history. Only Dale Hellestrae (176) and Bob Lilly (196) have played in more consecutive games with the Cowboys.