While suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott continues the process of throwing up legal Hail Mary attempts in hopes of getting back on the field, the Dallas Cowboys went about their business of moving on without him.
Elliott’s legal team from the NFL Players Association filed a motion for an injunction in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, asking for an expedited appeal of Southern District Judge Katherine Polk Failla’s Monday night denial. They also asked for a brief administrative stay for consideration of this motion so that Elliott can play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (6-2).
All are long shots, especially this week. Nothing is on the docket as of yet.
Elliott is serving his six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson accused him of domestic violence.
The Cowboys (4-3) conducted their first practice Wednesday without him with a plan of using Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden in tandem at running back in a business-as-usual ground-oriented game plan.
“For us, it’s something that’s been in the making. We knew it was going to happen. I felt it was going to happen. I just always told myself to stay ready,” McFadden said. “Whenever I get an opportunity, just try to come out there and do the best that I can.”
Coach Jason Garrett has not talked to Elliott since Sunday’s 33-19 victory against the Washington Redskins and is not allowed to have contact until Elliott returns from suspension before the Dec. 17 game against the Oakland Raiders.
“I spoke with him after the game,” Garrett said. “He was not going to come back on the flight with us. He went to New York. That was the last time I spoke to him. The message I share with him all along is control what you can control. He understands the responsibilities he has when he gets back. He’s going to get his mind right, get his body right for that opportunity.”
Quarterback Dak Prescott, who will have the responsibility of carrying the team and the offense until Elliott returns, exchanged messages with the star running back Monday night.
“Just telling him we got his back, supporting him, and he had a couple of words for me,” Prescott said Wednesday. “I was just letting him know we support him. He obviously feels bad with the ruling coming down, but just letting him know I’ve got his back, this team’s got his back. He was just telling me ‘just go play ball.’ ”
Asked about Elliott’s mindset, Prescott said, “I’m not going to read his attitude or what he thought. It is what it is. It happened. I know he’s looking forward, he’s moving forward. He’s put that all behind him. He’s going to do the best he can to have his body and his mind ready to go when he returns.”
And then the conversation turned light-hearted when Prescott was asked why he texted Elliott rather than speak to him on the phone. He said the same message gets across and blamed it on his generation.
“Millennials. Emojis and all that,” Prescott said with a smile. “That gets you the mood. Yeah.”
So a sad face?
“Nah, I mean, yeah, I don’t know,” Prescott said.
The bottom line is this is not a down-in-mouth team looking at a seemingly uncertain future without Elliott.
They are remaining positive and confident.
“This is a team,” Prescott said. “We all believe in each other. We’ve got a lot of confidence. I don’t think anything can happen in this locker room or outside the locker room that will take the confidence away from this team. And it’s not going to happen from taking a player away from us. We know we will have him back. And we will make the most of it when he is gone.”
Garrett said he had a brief discussion with the players about Elliott’s situation, but the focus has been the same: control what you can control and have a great day at practice.
He said his message to Prescott is the same as it is to everyone on the team: do your job.
“Zeke’s done a really good job of that, very focused on what he needs to do to play his best football each and every day that he’s here,”Garrett said. “He’s not here so we as coaches, players and staff members, we proceed to be our best to prepare for a real challenge on Sunday.”
Save an unlikely legal reversal, the Cowboys will proceed for the next six games without Elliott starting Sunday against the Chiefs. And they plan on staying in the playoff chase until he returns.
“My expectations for this team are high regardless of who is at running back, who is at receiver, who is at offensive line,” Prescott said. “My expectations that I know these guys in this locker room, the guys I go to work with each and every day I know their potential, I know what they and we can do together. My expectations don’t change.”
Cowboys vs. Chiefs
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KTVT/11