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Cowboys Sign TE Johnny Mitchell

November 21, 1996

DALLAS (AP) _ Veteran tight end Johnny Mitchell has convinced the Dallas Cowboys that he’s ready to come out of retirement and resume his NFL career.

The Cowboys Thursday said they had signed Mitchell, a 1992 first-round draft choice of the New York Jets, to a one-year contract. The terms were not disclosed, but The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday that he would make the NFL minimum of $16,176 per game.

``He wants to play and we’re happy to have him,″ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

The team put defensive tackle Mike Ulufale, who had knee surgery Nov. 1, on injured reserve to make room for Mitchell.

Coach Barry Switzer has characterized the 6-foot-3, 241-pound Mitchell as an insurance policy for the team, with Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek’s prospects for the season dimming and Eric Bjornson, the team’s leading receiver, hobbled by aching ankles.

It was uncertain whether Mitchell would play Sunday against the New York Giants. Daniels said coaches likely would wait until later in the week to make a decision, based on how quickly Mitchell learns the offensive schemes.

Tight end coach Robert Ford said Tyji Armstrong and Derek Ware would get most of the work. But Ford didn’t discount an appearance by Mitchell, particularly if Bjornson can’t play.

``We’re going to see if we can get him ready,″ Ford said. ``Derek’s the starter for now, but I might start Tyji. He’s been blocking his tail off. He’s not a great receiver, but he can catch the ball.″

The Cowboys originally brought Mitchell in for a workout after Bjornson sprained his left ankle Oct. 27 against Miami. Mitchell seemed prepared to sign a contract the following week, but backed out after telling the Cowboys he was uncertain whether he should continue his career.

A magnetic resonance imaging exam revealed at least three bulging disks in his back, and Mitchell, 25, may have concerns about his long-term health. However, he passed the team’s physical and the offer remained on the table.

They reopened discussions this week after Bjornson severely sprained his right ankle in Monday’s 21-6 victory over Green Bay.

Since leaving Nebraska as a sophomore in 1992, Mitchell has 158 career receptions for 2,086 yards and 16 touchdowns.

In June, after four seasons with the Jets, Mitchell became a free agent and signed a three-year, $1.4 million contract to play for the Dolphins. After 12 days in the Dolphins’ training camp, Mitchell asked to be excused from the team to handle ``personal″ family matters. When the club denied his request, Mitchell gave back his $500,000 signing bonus and retired.

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