Jason Witten made it clear he didn’t have all the information surrounding the domestic violence investigation into Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott.
So he didn’t want to draw conclusions on Elliott and the NFL’s decision to suspend him for the first six games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy related to domestic violence allegations levied against Elliott by an ex-girlfriend in July 2016.
Elliott has maintained his innocence and is appealing the suspension.
But this is a matter that hits close to home for Witten, who grew up with an abusive father.
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“I’m not privy to all the information that’s gone on over the last year,” Witten said. “I’d say this: there’s no place for a man to put his hand on a woman. Most of you know that that’s a situation that’s affected my family as a younger kid, so I put a lot of work and attention and have a platform to step out and speak on stopping domestic violence.
“Having said that, Zeke continues to work through it. He’s talked about it. How many games and all that stuff? That’s not what you really deal with. He’s a teammate and just need to work through it with him and have this opportunity to grow from it. I think that’s what his purpose is right now.”
Witten referred to the statement Elliott posted on social media in which he apologized for the year-long investigation being a distraction for the team, and vowed to “work very hard, on and off the field, to mature and earn the great opportunity that I have been given.”
Witten has discussed the situation with Elliott and is hopeful that he grows from it.
“Certainly these situations are never easy,” Witten said. “But Zeke’s been a teammate of mine for the last year and I’ve enjoyed having that relationship with him. Not only as a tremendous football player, but the opportunity to be able to have a relationship with him and mentor him. …I’m certain that he’ll work through it and be better and grow from it.
“Quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable even having the conversation right now, but you go through it, and [you’re] in a position to be a leader, and you continue to show the way and allow guys to grow, and I know that’s been a tough year on him. I think that his mindset has been such what he’s said, what he’s already released, I think that that’s a pretty good perspective on what he’s trying to do moving forward.”
Elliott’s absence will leave a massive hole in the Cowboys’ offense. This is a guy who led the league in rushing a season ago as a rookie and is a home-run threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
But Witten and the rest of the team are confident in the running back depth behind Elliott. Backups Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris have been 1,000-yard rushers in the league, and Rod Smith has impressed early on in training camp.
“We’ll get through this because that’s what we’re all about,” Witten said. “You look last year when we had adversity in different ways with injuries and different things that come up, I think our team has grown closer to each other and I suspect that we’ll do the same thing moving forward. That’s my job, that’s coach Garrett’s job as leaders on this team and guys will step up.
“At the running back position, that’s a position that we feel like we have a lot of depth there, guys who played at a high level for quite a few years in this league. Opportunity for them to hold it down until Zeke gets back. Our team will do that.”