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Cowboys TE Witten on return to NFL: 'The jitters were real'

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 8/18/2019 Lorenzo Reyes

a baseball player holding a bat on a field © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, a 16-year veteran, felt nervous about his preseason debut. That's because he spent a year away from playing, serving as an analyst for ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" broadcast last year.

In Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams in Honolulu, Hawaii, Witten caught his only target, a 10-yard completion from quarterback Dak Prescott in the first quarter. Witten played 13 snaps in what was his first game since Dec. 31, 2017.

"A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I've got a lot to prove," Witten said after the game, according to ESPN. "It wasn't perfect. I thought we're on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It's always tricky when you're coming back out here ... so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good."

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Witten, 37, is set to enter his 16th season in the league – all of them with the Cowboys. He had announced his retirement from the NFL after the 2017 season, and immediately entered the broadcast booth with ESPN for the 2018 season.

Witten announced in February that he would be making a comeback on a one-year contract with the Cowboys.

"Doing what I love, no place I'd rather be," Witten said. "Feel like I'm on schedule. This is the next step for us, and all through training camp, I felt good. We shall see as we move forward, but I wouldn't bet against."

Witten instantly rose atop Dallas’ depth chart, and is expected to give Prescott a trusted weapon in the middle of the field as the Cowboys look to compete for an NFC East title.

In 2017, he caught 63 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games.

"He's just one of those guys, incredibly reliable, had a great understanding of the game, very quarterback-friendly, and he comes up big in crunch time," coach Jason Garrett said, according to ESPN. "He's done that throughout his career. It was good to see him out here, good to see him playing football, having fun playing football and getting a few snaps under his belt."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten on return to NFL: 'The jitters were real'

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