Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett declined to expound on his thoughts about the six-game suspension of star running back Ezekiel Elliott and how the NFL came to its conclusions following a year-long investigation of domestic violence allegations.
Elliott was never arrested and not charged by the Columbus Ohio City Prosecutor, a situation that continues to befuddle the Cowboys as they try to wrap their head around the league’s decision.
Elliott continues to maintain his innocence.
“For us it’s very shocking,” running back Darren McFadden said. “We didn’t know what was going on exactly. To hear six games, it was definitley a surprise to us. We didn’t expect anything to happen. But they made a decision. For us as a team, we are going to rally around him and keep going forward.”
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And while the Cowboys were hopeful that Elliott would not miss any games, fueled by owner Jerry Jones’ blatant confidence, the team did prepare for the possibility, per Garrett.
“We suspected that something like this might happen,” Garrett said following the Cowboys 13-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum. “We prepared our team accordingly by building it the right way and we’re going to focus on what we control with our football team. As players and coaches, we’re going to coach as well as we can and we’re going to play as well as we can with the players we have available to us.”
Garrett said he heard rumblings about the suspension on Thursday night but didn’t know officially until vice president Stephen Jones called him Friday morning just ahead of the league announcement.
He talked to the team about the situation and how they were going to handle it. Elliott was not asked to speak to his teammates.
“We talked to our team about the situation and the importance of focusing on what we can control,” Garrett said. “We can’t control what the NFL does. It’s not my place to comment on whether I think it’s justified.”
Elliott didn’t play against Los Angeles Rams Saturday night and Garrett has not determined if he will play in the preseason, though Stephen Jones indicated he might play against the Indianapolis Colts Aug. 19.
Garrett refused to comment on whether he thought Elliott might win his appeal and be available for the season opener against the New York Giants.
But Garrett said the Cowboys prepared to play without him. He is confident that McFadden, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith will be able to handle the load until Elliott returns.
“Obviously, Zeke Elliott is a good football player,” Garrett said. “We feel that we’ve built our team the right way and we have some veteran experience, guys who have been productive in this league, at the running back position in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. We feel good about Rod Smith. We’re going to focus on the guys we have available to us. Zeke will be with us practicing as we go forward. He’s going to get himself ready to play when the time comes.”
Garrett said Elliott has not let the investigation affect him so far in training camp and believes he will continue to work hard going forward.
Elliott can continue to practice and play until the opening week of the regular season.
“I think Zeke has done an excellent job through this whole process of focusing on what he needs to do, control what he can control, he comes to work every day,” Garrett said. “He’s a hard working guy who wants to play football. He practices hard and he’s getting himself ready to play as well as he can.”