Cowboys vs. Giants: Why Dallas Shouldn't Risk Playing Jason Witten

John DegrooteCorrespondent IISeptember 5, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:  Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against  Michael Boley #59 of the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jason Witten has not missed a game since his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, but that could change Wednesday night in the team’s season opener against the New York Giants.

Witten suffered a lacerated spleen in the preseason, and it is not an injury he should be rushed back from.

A quick check of WebMD reveals this fact about a lacerated spleen:

The spleen is vulnerable to injury, and a ruptured spleen can cause serious life-threatening internal bleeding and is a life-threatening emergency. An injured spleen may rupture immediately after an injury, or in some cases, days or weeks after an injury.

Witten is currently listed as doubtful, but the team is insisting that the 30-year-old tight end is a game-time decision.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported earlier Wednesday that Witten was willing to sign a medical waiver that would absolve the team and its doctors of liability in case he re-injured his spleen during the NFC East matchup.

The Cowboys, however, are unwilling to accept any waiver that would allow Witten on the field without proper clearance from doctors.

Witten is a warrior, and he wants to help his team win. But entering the game on Wednesday may have long-term consequences that lead to him missing even more games this season. Beating the Giants, even in Week 1, would go a long way in the Cowboys' quest for a spit in the postseason. However, it is not worth risking one of the team's best players to do so.

Witten makes a living off catching the ball over the middle and taking the hard hits that come with those catches. He would also have to line up against what may be the best set of pass-rushers in the NFL. Witten would take a beating against the Giants both in the passing game and blocking. If he is not fully healed, it could set him back significantly for the season.

On top of that, the Cowboys are already very banged up at their skill positions. Miles Austin has a bad hamstring, Dez Bryant has been plagued with knee tendonitis and DeMarco Murray has a bad wrist. It is likely that at least one of these guys will miss time this year, and if Witten was out too, it could be disastrous.

Witten's production cannot be replaced. He led the team in both receptions (79) and yards (942) last year. His backups—John Phillips, James Hanna and the newly-acquired Colin Cochart—have accumulated only 27 combined receptions in their NFL careers.

The Cowboys' Pro Bowl tight end will be missed, but the team should hold off on rushing Witten back for Week 1. It will pay off in the long run.