Cowboys smartly play it safe with Witten

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
12:09
PM ET
The news on Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, according to Chris Mortensen, is that he's "willing to sign a medical waiver that would not hold the Cowboys or team doctors liable in case he re-injured his lacerated spleen" in tonight's season opener against the New York Giants. Mort's sources tell him this is not the first time this has come up since the injury, and that the Cowboys continue to refuse to consider Witten's request.

Well, good for Witten for wanting to play, and good for the Cowboys for being the adults in the situation and erring on the side of caution. This isn't a pulled hamstring, where re-injuring means a couple more weeks on the sidelines. It's a lacerated spleen, and re-injuring it could mean surgery and long-term damage to Witten's immune system. This is an injury whose improper management could affect not only Witten's ability to play football but, far more importantly, his ability to live the rest of his life healthy.

So, while the player wants to be tough and brave and play in spite of all of the circumstances, and while the team needs him on the field, the Cowboys are doing the right and responsible thing by refusing Witten's offer to sign the waiver. If the Cowboys' doctors can tell them they're 100 percent certain Witten is putting himself at no further risk of splenic injury by playing tonight, that's one thing. But you know my saying about NFL players, and it applies here: Witten is not a doctor. He's qualified to tell them he feels better, but not to forecast what might happen to him if he took a big hit before the laceration on his spleen healed fully. The Cowboys are right to trust the opinion of the people who are so qualified, and if there's even the slightest bit of doubt, they're right to hold him out of the game.

A player in Witten's situation simply can't be trusted to see beyond the immediate and do what's best for his long-term health. He wants to play, and he'll worry about the rest later. I know that's his mindset, because you can't really play in the NFL unless that's your mindset. So it's the job of the team to look big picture. Not only do the Cowboys want to maximize their chances of having Witten available to them in Games 2 through 16, they're responsible for his well-being. By refusing Witten's request to sign the medical waiver, they're dong the right thing by him.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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