For the first time in his professional career, Jason Witten changed teams this summer. The longtime Dallas Cowboys tight end retired in April to join the Monday Night Football booth as an analyst, essentially taking over after Jon Gruden returned to coaching with the Oakland Raiders.
Switching teams isn’t always easy for a football player, but switching jobs entirely is another thing altogether. Tony Romo was an instant hit in CBS’s lead broadcast pairing along with Jim Nantz, and while he’s gotten some advice on this very site from his former teammate and starting quarterback about what to do in the booth, the job is all his own.
Critics were tough on him in his first week, but the 15-year NFL veteran says the process is all about learning in his first few live games. Witten spoke to Uproxx about his first foray into the booth, what perspective he hopes to bring viewers and how excited he is to approach football from a different angle.
Uproxx: When you play for so long the decision to retire is difficult, and a lot of players struggle with it. How much did it impact your decision to retire that you potentially had a gig after football lined up with ESPN?
Jason Witten: Yeah, I’m very fortunate. I pinch myself every day in a lot of ways. Look, I love playing football, and anybody who was around me knows I attacked it every day. I was very driven. I said it when I retired: The journey is the reward. And for me, every day — whether it was March or August in training camp, or a couple game losing streak, or going on a run and winning a division— I tried to attack it that way.
So thinking that would end, and someday it ends for all of us as far as football is concerned. Father time waits on no one. I was well-aware of that but it was still really, really hard. It was unbelievable to play for 15 years, it flew by, and to have a chance to try to win a championship, and I played a strong role in all of that.
But I just think the opportunity to be on this stage, Monday Night Football, and the tradition and history of what it entails. And to share my knowledge and have fun and stay around the game that I love and bring a different perspective. So it’s been a new challenge and I’m attacking it the same way. I’m not perfect and I’m not where I want to be and I continue to improve, but you take that same approach: Go back and watch the tape and ‘Ah, I like that one,” you know? Or ‘I wish I had that opportunity back.’