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Breaking: Jason Witten Leaves ESPN, Returns to Football in Surprise Move

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Jason Witten’s tenure as part of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” broadcasting crew lasted all of one season.

No, Witten wasn’t fired (although many viewers of MNF may have wished he was).

The former Dallas Cowboys tight end is now a current Cowboys tight end, coming out of retirement at age 36 to rejoin the team Thursday.

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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Witten signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Cowboys.

Many retired athletes often talk about the competitive fire that keeps on burning even after they hang up the cleats, and that appears to be what drew Witten back to the game.

“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship.

“This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”

Are you happy that Jason Witten is leaving the MNF booth?

Witten will rejoin a Cowboys team that won the NFC East with a 10-6 record last season. Dallas won its wild-card game against the Seattle Seahawks before losing to the eventual NFC champions, the Los Angeles Rams.

Despite the team’s success, the Cowboys never settled on a full-time tight end to replace Witten.

The team rotated Blake Jarwin, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers and Dalton Schultz at the position with none playing more than 48 percent of the offensive snaps.

Those four players combined for 68 receptions, 710 yards and four touchdowns. Witten had 63 receptions, 560 yards and five touchdowns in the 2017 NFL season.

Already the Cowboys’ all-time leader in games played, receptions and receiving yards, Witten needs five more touchdowns to tie Dez Bryant for the most receiving touchdowns in franchise history.

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Witten turns 37 in May, but there is precedent for players at his position still performing well. The Los Angeles Chargers’ Antonio Gates and the New Orleans Saints’ Benjamin Watson were 38 last season, and the Chargers are already discussing bringing back Gates this year.

While Witten is a future Hall of Famer and a Cowboys legend, his brief MNF tenure received mixed reviews.

He wasn’t a natural in the booth like good friend and former teammate Tony Romo, who transitioned seamlessly from being a player one year to a commentator the next.

Social media had a field day with the announcement that Witten is leaving MNF, with most of the reactions poking fun at his broadcasting stint.

For the second time in two years, “Monday Night Football” will be shuffling its broadcasting team. Joe Tessitore is the play-by-play man and Booger McFarland is the lone color commentator.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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