Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten (Photo: Cary Edmondson, US Presswire)
(USA TODAY) Witten is listed as active for the game, though it remains to be seen how much he'll play.
The Dallas Cowboys are denying an ESPN report that claims TE Jason Witten was willing to sign a medical waiver that would free the team and its doctors from liability if he was allowed to play Wednesday night against the New York Giants in the NFL regular season opener.
Witten suffered a lacerated spleen in the Cowboys' preseason opener Aug. 13.
Witten is QB Tony Romo's trusted security blanket and led the Cowboys with 79 catches for 942 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Expectation was that the team's medical staff would err on the side of caution when making a decision on Witten, who's missed just one game in a career that dates to 2003. He has started 139 consecutive games but was listed on the injury report as doubtful, meaning there was a 25% chance he'd play.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones raised the possibility Witten would try to play when he told USA TODAY Sports last Thursday, "It's certainly not impossible to think he could be in the game. We'll have to handcuff him to keep him off the field. There's never been a player lobbying and working as hard to get on the field.''
Witten, 30, enters this season ranked ninth among active pass receivers with 696 catches for 7,909 yards with 41 touchdowns. The only current tight end with more receptions is Tony Gonzalez, who has 1,149 for 13,338 yards and 95 TDs over 15 seasons.
"I don't think you're ever really able to replace him,'' Romo said of Witten.
John Phillips, with 22 career catches in four seasons, is Witten's backup. Rookie James Hanna is also in reserve.
Despite insisting that "if I'm cleared, we're playing," Witten is likely to open his season Sept. 16 at Seattle.
Without him, the Cowboys are likely to be more dependent on RBs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones.
"That will go a long way to make it just a little more uncomfortable for them," Giants DE Justin Tuck said of Witten's expected absence. Maybe he (Romo) holds the ball a little longer and gives us a little more time to get after him. Our biggest thing is stopping the run and making sure he doesn't have that crutch -- putting everything on him.''