Witten in pads, Cowboys work on strange schedule

Associated Press Modified: September 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm •  Published: September 1, 2012

IRVING, Texas (AP) — Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was a few minutes late to the podium Saturday, then abruptly ended his daily briefing with the media earlier than usual.

Apologizing while making his quick departure, after noticing the time on the clock in front of him, Garrett said he had to get to practice.

"Guys, I hate to be rude, I feel like I've been bad today, but I've got to get to practice," he said.

This was far from a regular Saturday at Valley Ranch before a game.

Instead, it was the middle of game-week preparation for their unprecedented Wednesday night season opener at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. All while the Cowboys also made changes to the 53-man roster and signed eight practice squad players in time for them to all be on the field.

A hopeful sign for the Cowboys was having tight end Jason Witten on the field in pads, able to run around and catch some passes. It was his first time in pads since lacerating his spleen when he took a hard hit during the preseason opener at Oakland on Aug. 13.

Witten has missed only one game in his career, because of a broken jaw as a rookie in 2003. He is hopeful of being medically cleared to play against the Giants in the NFL's kickoff game.

"Obviously, it's beyond just me. I hope so," Witten said. "It's a big game for us."

The seven-time Pro Bowl tight end said his recovery has been progressing good and that he feels "really good." He didn't know when he would see a doctor again, but figured there would be evaluations throughout the week.

"It's been a long process obviously," he said. "You've got to just stay with the plan. ... It was good to be out there, and so that's all I can do, and stay ready."

Witten will have to be cleared by doctors to play, and figures there will be evaluations throughout the week. He said he will be fitted for protective equipment to wear when he does play.

Garrett said Witten has been moving around and catching footballs for the last week or so.

"We'll continue with his progression," the coach said.

With Witten still uncertain, the Cowboys claimed tight end Colin Cochart off waivers Saturday from Cincinnati. Cochart played in 10 games and started three last season after originally signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent.

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