Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is “doing the most good,” Jerry Jones agreed Monday.
The rookie leads the league in rushing, is helping lead the Cowboys to the playoffs, ranks among the leaders for the MVP race and has led The Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign.
“What you saw Zeke do is something, in his own way, he has that kind of energy,” Jones said. “He’s like a young puppy; he’s like that around the team and everyone just loves the way he has a zest for life. He really keeps it interesting. You’ve got to have some of that in a rough, physical environment.”
He’s like a young puppy ... He really keeps it interesting. You’ve got to have some of that in a rough, physical environment.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on Ezekiel Elliott
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While tall buildings might be a stretch for Elliott, he showed Sunday he can leap into The Salvation Army’s red kettle in a single bound. His unique touchdown celebration spurred online donations to the charity.
“They’ve given me some numbers this morning that it’s really perked contributions,” said Jones, who wears a Salvation Army pin on his lapel. “Let’s give Zeke credit for that. It’s certainly fun. We have those kettles there because we do want the visibility of reminding everybody, certainly at this time of year, how doing the most good is to put a dollar in that red kettle. To have gotten that attention in front of probably 20 million or so people last night for The Salvation Army was just wonderful.”
Elliott set a career high with 159 yards on 23 carries in the 26-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2 yards more than his previous best against Green Bay on Oct. 16. He celebrated his 2-yard touchdown run — his franchise-rookie-record 13th rushing TD — by jumping into the oversize kettle in the back of the end zone.
Officials penalized the Cowboys 15 yards, but the NFL announced it will not fine Elliott. Elliott, who announced after the game he would make a donation to The Salvation Army equal any fine, tweeted Monday he still will donate to the nonprofit.
But the goodwill stopped at Jason Garrett’s office door.
We love the enthusiasm. ... You can’t jump in the bucket, though. It’s going to cost you 15 yards. Hurts your football team.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, on Ezekiel Elliott’s jump into The Salvation Army red kettle
“I actually think it’s pretty simple: You can’t do things that hurt your football team,” the Cowboys coach said. “Jumping into the Salvation Army bucket cost us a 15-yard penalty. We talked a lot about the word ‘respond’ lately, and I thought our team did a really good job responding to that.
“You don’t want to put yourself, your team, in that kind of position. We love the enthusiasm. He brings so much to our football team, on the field, off the field. He has an infectious, can-do spirit, again, that’s contagious throughout our team. We love that. You can’t jump in the bucket, though. It’s going to cost you 15 yards. Hurts your football team.”
258 Yards that Ezekiel Elliott needs in the Cowboys’ final two regular-season games to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808.
Elliott’s 1,551 rushing yards, which are 327 more than Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray, who ranks second, have helped the Cowboys for sure. He needs 258 yards in the final two games to break Eric Dickerson’s league rookie rushing mark set in 1983.
The Cowboys will clinch the division title and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs Thursday if the Giants lose to the Philadelphia Eagles. If the Giants win, the Cowboys can clinch with a victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday.
Either scenario, making one or both of the Cowboys’ final two games meaningless, likely would decrease Elliott’s chances of breaking Dickerson’s mark.
“I think you’ve got to just really see what the situation is, see what we’re doing,” Jones said. “Just the combination of things. Such things, I’m just reading off such things, as how close are you? All those kinds of things. But the first thing is right now as far as any thoughts that I might have we’ve got to be ready to beat Philadelphia as we sit here right today.”
Staff writer Drew Davison contributed to this report.