If it was completely up to Jason Witten, football would be played in a vacuum. There would be no stories on how players wear their hats, or on which teammate is dating which starlet, or whether the locker room is a more mentally and emotionally stable place after the banishment to Buffalo of a certain troubling component of that locker room.
Of course, if football was played in a vacuum - in the mud with the guys wearing Wranglers while just battling among neighborhood pals - the Cowboys star tight end couldn't get paid. And he couldn't use what he calls his "shining light of celebrity'' to make a positive impact on his community. And he wouldn't be available for my exclusive BTB interview, in which he addresses the aforementioned issues, along with his view on his reduced numbers and his belief that this year's Cowboys team is "learning to live in the moment.''
FISH: Which came away from the loss in Green Bay more banged up, your chest or your ego. ... or even your offense's confidence in itself?
WITTEN: "We still believe in ourselves as an offense, for sure. That's not an issue. Health-wise, I got hit up under the shoulder pads there at the end, hit my sternum, and just had the wind knocked out of me for a second. Otherwise, it's just the normal bumps and bruises, nothing serious. Our pride did get knocked around pretty good, though. There was an opportunity there and we didn't take it. Really, to be fair, Green Bay didn't let us take it.''
FISH: Obviously, at this time of the year, the Cowboys schedule is such that you don't really have a lot of time to lick your wounds, whether they are psychological or physical wounds. ...
WITTEN: "It's two games in five days, and it's hard to avoid thinking of it that way. I feel like I've got of years doing this, though, so I think I and most of the guys understand the challenge. You know what's on the schedule, Washington and then Oakland. Washington is a division game, a rival, so you know how tough that will be. And Oakland will approach it like any Thanksgiving game: A national TV game with an opportunity to really accomplish something.
"But one of the challenges here is to make sure we handle each challenge as it comes along. That's one thing I think this team - after all these years and with all these different experiences - is leaning to do: Live in the moment, you know?''
FISH: What do you mean, "Live in the moment''? As opposed to different approaches by previous editions of the team?
WITTEN: "Exactly. We've experienced a lot of different situations. When we were 13-3, we were on top of the world ... or at least, we thought we were. Then we went 9-7 and no playoffs. So now, we try to not get too high, not get too low, not have too much drama.''
FISH: I really subscribe to the "out-of-sight/out-of-mind'' approach to injured players who aren't available and to former players, too. So I don't know that T.O. deserves to be mentioned in conjunction with this year's team or not. Is his absence a factor? When you mention "drama,'' isn't that what we're talking about?
WITTEN: "I guess I'm pretty traditional in my approach. I think there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. I think that if you go back and examine the guys who have really been successful in this league, there is a common thread. They pretty much did things, went about their business, a certain way. If you get caught up in other things - no matter who is to blame for that, if your team gets caught up in other things - you've made the mistake of thinking that there isn't something out there that's bigger than you.''
FISH: That philosophy probably explains why you have a certain distaste for the "celebrity side'' of football ... and while at the same time you do use your fame for causes that are important to you, from your F.O.R.C.E. Foundation to the Cowboys' Salvation Army cause to "I Am Second.''
WITTEN: "I recognize that playing in the NFL, and playing for the Dallas Cowboys in particular, gives a guy a certain high profile. We can all choose to do with that whatever we wish. I try to take advantage of the platform I have - the platform that football gives me - and to use it for things I believe in. If nobody paid attention to football, I don't get I'd be a person in the spotlight. I'm not always comfortable with it.
"But I know there are many, many people who admire you if you are a Dallas Cowboy, and who watch your every move. So I want to be a ‘shining light of celebrity,' if that makes sense.''
FISH: Your celebrity remains intact. But your numbers (49 catches, 438 yards) aren't quite what they've been in the past - certainly with touchdowns (one this season). Is that an issue of game-planning, of the other teams' schemes, of increased balance on the offense with the emergence of a guy like Miles Austin? Or are you even really aware of it?
WITTEN: "Oh, I am aware of it! You know about it. A guy knows his stats. But the first priority is to win games, and we are doing that. But yeah, I'd like to be contributing more in terms of numbers. I want to step up. We've got seven regular-season games left, and I want to be a big part of winning those games. I want to be a weapon.''