Reliable Witten continues doing it all for Cowboys

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OXNARD, CALIF. (AP) - Jason Witten lined up at tight end with the rest of the starters for the Dallas Cowboys, occasionally sliding into the backfield as an H-back.

When the second team took over, Witten was still out there, forced into it because injuries have turned Dallas‘ five-man tight end group into just him and DajLeon Farr.

Then practice ended and everyone wound down with a pair of sideline-to-sideline sprints. Witten started near the front of the pack and understandably finished near the back.

Tired as he should’ve been, he still wasn’t finished.

As most of the team headed off the field, Witten and tight ends coach John Garrett worked on blocking techniques with Farr, who joined the team Tuesday.

Farr pretended to be a defensive end coming at Witten to learn how he fired up from his hand on the ground and kept the rusher in front of him. They went through it several times, then switched roles, with Witten turning into the defender.

Finally ready to leave, Witten stopped for interviews. Then he went over to tussle the hair of some youngsters, pose for pictures and sign autographs.

Put the scenes together from Saturday’s practice and you have a complete picture of Witten: reliable, durable, team-oriented. He’s pretty much everything a coach or quarterback could want, which explains why he keeps getting picked as a team captain, invited to Pro Bowls and nominated for NFL Man of the Year.

Heading into his eighth season, Witten remains hungry for more _ more catches, more touchdowns and, most of all, more postseason success. After finally winning a playoff game last season, reaching the Super Bowl is the logical next step; having the game at Cowboys Stadium makes it even more enticing.

So it’s little wonder that Witten saw a bright side to his extra workload while the other tight ends are recuperating.

“Here I am, going back to the basics,” he said, smiling. “It’s been good, especially in the middle of camp. … We’ve all got a lot to improve on. The more work you can get, the more confidence you build.”

Witten was back to his usual duties Sunday afternoon. Martellus Bennett returned from an ankle injury and Dallas signed Jason Pociask.

Witten arrived in Dallas as part of Bill Parcells’ first draft class, in 2003. He broke his jaw that season and had three plates screwed in to fix it; he missed a single game and hasn’t missed any since.

He caught 94 passes for 1,030 yards last season, second-best of his career in both categories. He has the most catches for the most yards among tight ends in team history and is near the tops for all Cowboys receivers. Among active tight ends, only Tony Gonzalez has more catches than Witten; only Gonzalez and Antonio Gates have more yards.

Touchdowns is the one category Witten is lacking. Seven is his career high and he had just two last season. It’s probably no coincidence the Cowboys struggled inside the opponent’s 20-yard line last season.

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