FRISCO, Texas -- Having spent a year away from the game in the Monday Night Football analyst chair, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten knows there are questions about his ability to continue to play at a high level.
"Look, it's a show-me game and you've got to be able to find ways to get open and you've got to be able to find ways to play at the point of attack, and I'd want to see it from him," Witten said. "I would want to see if they can do that ... A lot of older players, as they got older, you hear them say, 'This is the best I've felt.' I think the year off helped me. I learned a lot. Also, I think I come back with a different perspective.
"My game has never been built on speed. When I was 20 years old, I got drafted here and they said, 'He's not real fast,' and so it's all about fundamentals and techniques to how you play this position. I've got a lot of time on task in this system and what allows you to be successful. I've got to go back to do that. That's what gives me confidence. But like anything, this is a young man's game and I'd need to see it from him before I believed it."
Witten has practiced in three of the Cowboys' five organized team activities so far, following a similar plan from his previous few seasons of getting rest at different points of the offseason and training camp to remain fresh when the regular season begins.
Teammates have said he looks like the same player, and quarterback Dak Prescott said he looks even faster after a year away.
Another concession to time, Witten will not play nearly every snap, which is what he did for most of his career, although an exact number of plays per game has not been set.
"It's all about now, and we understand that's the business of pro football, but I know that it will all work itself out," Witten said. "I think that's also a part of a different perspective that I wouldn't have had a year ago. It's one thing to talk about that humility that you went through and come back in a different approach. Look, there's a lot of questions out there about me, too, and I'm anxious to go prove I can play. But I also know that may not include every play, every snap. Certainly that's been talked about ... My job is to make it tough on them. We all benefit if that's the case."
Witten spent time after Wednesday's workout working with younger tight ends Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers and Codey McElroy. He has made no secrets about his desire to coach at some point in the future.
"Those guys are hungry football players. They're talented players and I want to help them," Witten said. "Not just tight ends -- all those guys. Not just as a mentor but seeing the game and how I want to share it and my approach, what I'm going to bring to this football team."
Prescott also has noticed the positive influence that Witten's return is having on his position group.
"He's coaching them out and making sure they're getting better, and when you have a guy like that and when you have a room like that, the expectations grow and they're all asking for it," said Prescott. "So, I mean, great players, great guys that want to learn, and they're definitely doing that when they have a leader like Witten in the room.
Witten said he made the decision to return to the field not long after calling the wild-card game between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. He put himself through some workouts to see if his body would respond and had conversations with owner and general manager Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett.
Would he have considered playing elsewhere if the Cowboys hadn't welcome him back?
"I never had to get down to that road because I knew I had this opportunity fairly early, but I think I knew I was going to come back and play," Witten said. "I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity. I don't know that I can answer that if this opportunity wasn't there. Would I think about it? I don't know that I could've seen myself wearing another uniform, but I was pretty adamant that I was ready to get back in there and play."