IRVING, Texas -- With all that Peyton Manning has accomplished in his career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, there is no doubt why he is the most respected player in the NFL, according to an anonymous survey of 320 players conducted by ESPN.
Witten earned five votes in the league tally. DeMarcus Ware earned three.
In 11 seasons, Witten is the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver. He is second to Michael Irvin in receiving yards in franchise history. Only Tony Gonzalez has more catches as a tight end in NFL history. By next season he should pass Shannon Sharpe for second place in most yards all-time by a tight end. He set a record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 in 2012. He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He could make his ninth trip depending on the outcome of Sunday's conference title games.
With Witten, however, it is more than just numbers. It is physical and mental toughness. It is dedication. It is a belief in doing things the right way. He has missed only one game in his career despite numerous injuries, including a ruptured spleen in 2012. He does not miss offseason workouts.
"He's a great football player," coach Jason Garrett said after the season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. "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' 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."