Probable Pro Bowler Witten On Cowboys Goals: 'Nobody Wants It More Than We Do'

When will the Pro Bowl selections be announced? Jason Witten says he does not know. (It's tonight, by the way.)

With 88 catches, how close to his personal single-season best is the Cowboys tight end? Jason Witten says he does not know. (Witten caught 96 in 2007, so with one game to go, he is eight shy of that.)

What were the Cowboys' goals going into the season and how successfully are they achieving those goals?

That, Jason Witten knows.

"Absolutely, the first goal is an important one and we just achieved it,'' says Witten, who we caught up with on Monday night, 24 hours after Dallas' playoff-clinching 17-0 win in Washington. "The first goal is to somehow, someway, get into the playoffs. We're one of 12 teams that have done that. So that's an achievement.''

But then comes the next goal ...

"You get to take a deep breath,'' Witten says. "You get to be happy about that accomplishment in the locker room. ... and then your mindset changes very quickly and you start thinking about the Philadelphia game. Which is what we're doing now.''

The Philadelphia game on Sunday, the regular-season finale, represents the next Cowboys goal. It is essentially the NFC East Championship. A home victory there gives Dallas the chance to climb even higher on the NFC playoff totem pole.

As usual, Witten has done his part. Those 88 catches means he's got 80-plus for three straight seasons; that's only been accomplished before by one guy, the Raiders' Todd Christensen. With 80-plus for four years total, Witten is in a class joined only by Christensen and Chief-turned-Falcon Tony Gonzalez.

"When I first came into the league, I guess I did have individual goals,'' concedes the seventh-year veteran. "But as time went on, and I achieved some of those (numbers-related goals), I really changed my goal to wanting to be consistent every year. I didn't want to be a yo-yo guy. I wanted the team to be able to count on me.''

Mission accomplished, as Witten is an accomplished blocker, an iron man, a pass-catcher and a consistent yardage machine. He's got 954 yards (helped greatly by what owner Jerry Jones joked was an "afterburner'' 69-yard catch-and-run in Washington), giving him at least 952 in four of his seasons. With just 46 more yards, he gets to the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. Despite the lack of touchdowns (a Fantasy-Football-player-crushing one TD!), Witten truly has turned on the afterburners of late, with three 100-yard efforts in the last five games, including the six-for-117 effort against the Redskins.

Said QB Tony Romo after that game: "It's comforting to know what kind of route he's going to run, what he's thinking and that I'm thinking the same thing. He's a special player."  

Counters Witten in our conversation with him, when asked about his close buddy Romo: "This is the best I've seen him play. All our success on offense starts and ends with him.''

Well, some of the success is based on Witten, too. And hopefully the Pro Bowl voting will reflect that. Witten has been selected for five consecutive all-star games. Should he get a sixth berth, that will be the all-time mark for a Cowboys tight end.

In a sense, the field is as tough as ever. The 49ers' Vernon Davis has monster stats. New Orleans' Jeremy Shockey is a fan favorite. Gonzalez is in the NFC now. Minnesota's Visanthe Shiancoe is a touchdown guy. There would be some logic to the NFC naming the three guys who top conference tight ends in catches: Witten with 88, then Gonzalez with 80, then Davis 72.

Davis, by the way, has his view:

"I can block better than any tight end in the conference, and my statistics are there in the passing game," says Davis of his candidacy. "I mean, why not?"

And Witten has his view.

"That's more of a fan thing, which I respect, because it's such an honor,'' Witten says. "But it's not the focus.''

Speaking of "fan things,'' we asked Jason about the Cowboys fan base expectations, the sense we get that some might be overlooking the "only-12-teams-even-make-the-Tournament'' achievement.

"It's part of what makes the Cowboys special, that there are expectations,'' Witten says. "But we can't get caught up in somebody else's expectations. I love the Cowboys fans. I think all the players respect the fans. But when it comes to this team's goals, nobody wants it more than we do.''

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