Jason Witten

Jason Witten believes it will be 'hard' for Rob Gronkowski to stay retired

Jason Witten believes it will be 'hard' for Rob Gronkowski to stay retired

The allure of the NFL was too much for Jason Witten, whose retirement lasted all of 10 months before he returned to the Dallas Cowboys this offseason.

Will Rob Gronkowski follow in Witten's footsteps?

Witten obviously can't read Gronkowski's mind. His situation also is different than Gronkowski's in that he was motivated to return by a lack of Super Bowl titles, while Gronk went out on top with the New England Patriots in February.

But the veteran Cowboys tight end can share this: Stepping away from football wasn't easy for him, and likely won't be easy for the 30-year-old Gronkowski.

"What I do know about him is he’s the ultimate competitor, he loves football, so it’s going to be hard," Witten recently told Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. "It’s hard to fill that void, knowing you can still do it."

Gronkowski battled injuries last season but still managed 47 catches and 647 receiving yards in 13 games. So, if Witten can find a spot on the Cowboys at age 37 after spending a year in ESPN's "Monday Night Football" booth, Gronkowski certainly could perform at a high level on the Patriots if he so chose.

“Look, this is a young man’s game, and father time catches up with all of us. But while you can still do it, and he certainly can, he’s going to have to find things that fill that," Witten said. 

" … A lot of guys I’ve seen in my career that played at a high level and were done, they moved on, never thought another day about it. I know he’s got a lot of opportunities, but I’m sure he’ll miss it, because he’s the ultimate competitor."

Gronkowski has other opportunities in the hopper -- he'll reveal one of them Tuesday during a press conference in New York -- but Witten isn't alone in thinking the retired tight end may get the football itch once the 2019 season begins.

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Bennett's recycled barbs about Witten don't get return fire

Bennett's recycled barbs about Witten don't get return fire

The oft-exhumed, multi-platform ESPN interview with Martellus and Michael Bennett was hauled out of its crypt once again this week. 

It's hard to divine exactly what prompts the Worldwide Leader to decide that it's time to repurpose an offseason conversation with the Patriots tight end and the Seahawks defensive lineman and present it as if it just happened, but if the aim is creating new buzz with old quotes, it works.

This week, ESPN produced a feature for one of its shows using the months-old, on-camera footage then sent its reporters into the field to ask players and coaches for their reactions to the repackaged, repurposed, recycled quotes. 

One of the targets was Jason Witten. Martellus Bennett said that he "hated" Witten when the two were teammates in Dallas. 

Witten was asked this week about Bennett's review. 

"Busy schedule,” Witten said. “I’ll make sure to get around to that real quick to see it. I did hear about it. Marty is a good player. He really is. He enjoys entertaining, but I’m glad he’s in a good place now and he’s having a good year so far. He is. He’s a good football player.” 

Bill Belichick was similarly asked this week about comments Martellus Bennett made about the Bears roster. The comments may have been made in August as well and publicized or they may have just been brought to light this week. Tough to keep track. Anyway, Belichick wasn't up to talk about them.

If this seems like a criticism of ESPN's approach to creating new waves of news based on earlier reporting, it is. And I probably wouldn't be so attuned to it it weren't for the fact ESPN got in on the ground floor with blatantly incorrect reporting on Deflategate then remained in cahoots with the NFL to allow that incorrect report to stand even when the NFL gathered information that would have rebutted it. More than a year later, ESPN continued to falsely feed perception that the Patriots purported actions were definitely sinister as opposed to possibly eyebrow-raising.
 
All the while, ESPN leveraged that original report and the perception it created to feed the content maw on radio, TV, digitally and in its magazine up to and through Tom Brady's return last week when it shamelessly turned the countdown to the Browns game into Brady Week on all platforms. 

The line between reporting the news and manufacturing the news isn't blurry at all. It's been obliterated. 

Actually, as I think about it, is one guy hating a former co-worker even "news" in the first place? Or is his saying so publicly "news"? I can't deny it's good gossip and illuminating information and that all of us - me, CSN New England, NBC as well - toggle between personality "news" and entertainment and actual news affecting related to the football product. But the appearance of creating news that should have seemed like a bridge too far is now one we stand ready to cross while ESPN is already waving to us from the other side.