Coach Jason Garrett said the Dallas Cowboys have been planning on having running back Ezekiel Elliott for Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants all along.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick said he never expected Elliott not to be available.
It’s one thing to be confident and approach Elliott’s delicate situation with a positive attitude, but it’s another thing to know that he will definitely play Sunday.
Elliott was cleared to play because of Tuesday’s delay in the decision of his appeal of his six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
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“I didn’t know either way,” tight end Jason Witten admitted. “But I’m fired up that he is playing.”
Quarterback Dak Prescott said he was focused on getting ready for the game regardless of who was playing.
Now that he knows Elliott is will be out there for the opener, the excitement was palpable in the locker room and on the practice field.
“It’s good,” Prescott said. “He gets to play this week. We’re excited for it as we were preparing for any running back to go in there. Those other guys were ready. He had a great practice today and he’s been great all week, so we’re excited.”
This might be Elliott’s last game until Nov. 5. NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson affirmed his six-game suspension, but a federal judge will decide on Friday whether to grant a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension until the case is heard.
“Again, we talk to him every day,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “His focus has been excellent throughout the entire process. Again, he seems very focused, locked in on meetings, the walk-through. He’s done an excellent job in his preparation.”
Prescott said Elliott has done a good job of putting the suspension questions behind him.
“I guess I can just remind him of the reason why he’s so good,” Prescott said. “The moment he walks in here, he’s locked in and football is the only thing on his mind. I can tell you when he’s in here and he’s in this locker room or he’s at practice or in that film room, none of the outside world is going through his head. Just remind him of that and stay focused.”
The Giants gave the Cowboys two of their only three losses during last season’s 13-3 campaign.
Elliott struggled in last year’s 20-19 season-opening loss, rushing 20 times for 51 yards, because he missed so much time in camp with hamstring injuries and had yet to gain chemistry with the team’s offensive line. The 10-7 loss in the second game had more to do with struggles in the passing game than Elliott’s production. He rushed 24 times for 107 yards. It was one of his seven 100-yard games during a season in which he led the NFL with 1,631 yards as a rookie.
Prescott said the Cowboys are more potent on offense with Elliott on the field.
“I mean, last year was a taste of what we can be and just how great and talented he is,” Prescott said. “It opens up so much in the pass game and the play action game. It will be good.”
Absent the temporary injunction, this could be Elliott’s last game until the Nov. 5 match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Scandrick doesn’t even want to consider the sight of an offense without Elliott.
“I haven't seen it without him in a long time,” Scandrick said. “And hopefully, I don't have to see it without him anytime soon. So we are going to go out and we going to do things we do and we are going to execute (against the Giants). Hopefully, we like the result at the end.”