Ezekiel Elliott has gotten to the point where he’s unemotional when it comes to the latest legal ruling in his lingering battle with the NFL over a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
It’s been an ever-changing ride for Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys. One day, he’s eligible to play. The next day, he’s not. And vice versa.
So far, Elliott hasn’t missed any games.
It appeared Monday that Elliott would be sidelined after the Southern District of New York sided with the NFL, but that changed Friday when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York granted an administrative stay.
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Long story short, Elliott is eligible to play in Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. After that, it’s a roll of the dice.
“It’s really, at this point, hard for me to get down or up about this whole situation because tomorrow could be something different,” Elliott said. “It’s really not worth my time to worry about.”
The only thing Elliott says he is worried about is clearing his name and producing for the Cowboys on the field.
Elliott continues to express his innocence in the situation, and said he has not considered accepting the suspension in hopes of putting it behind him.
“This is bigger than a suspension,” Elliott said. “It’s bigger than football. It’s them [the NFL] trying to make me something I’m not. I’m not an abuser. That’s not who I am. It’s my name. It’s my reputation. It’s something I have to live with beyond football.
“Every day is worth fighting.”
His teammates understand his desire to fight for his reputation, but have avoided getting emotionally invested in the situation. Unlike some fans, the locker room has done its best to ignore Elliott’s situation.
“It’s annoying and I’m not even in it,” running back Alfred Morris said. “I can’t imagine how he feels. It’s so back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. That gets old after a while.
“I don’t blame him [for fighting it]. If you feel like you’re in the right. … It’s so weird, nobody wants to admit defeat. He’s going to fight for his name. The NFL is going to fight for what they do.”
Morris isn’t alone in avoiding the legal drama.
“We did a good job this week. We got a really tough test ahead of us,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We got great football players on this team. Sometimes guys can’t play for whatever reasons, whether it’s injuries or different reasons. I thought our focus was great this week without him. I think we have a mature team with a lot of leaders that can handle something like this.”
Added tight end Jason Witten, “A lot of the teams in this league kind of live by the standard of ‘next man up’ whether it’s due to injury or a situation like this. I think our team has embodied that so much.”
Earlier in the week, it appeared that the suspension would lead to more playing time for Morris and Darren McFadden. McFadden has been inactive every week, and likely will be again Sunday.
Like the rest of the team, though, McFadden wasn’t going to get too high or too low based on the situation.
“I stay even-keeled,” McFadden said. “I wasn’t going to get too hyped until Sunday got here, where I knew something for sure. Other than that I stay even-keeled about it.”
Elliott and his teammates aren’t the only ones unemotional about the legal fight. Even Las Vegas odds-makers have refrained from using Elliott’s status to dictate their odds.
In fact, the Cowboys’ odds of winning the Super Bowl improved after Elliott was suspended earlier this week. Bovada improved the Cowboys’ odds from 20-to-1 on Oct. 25 to 18-to-1 on Wednesday.
“They are [18-to-1] now mainly because they are still favored to make the playoffs, in which Elliott should be available for,” Bovada sportsbook manager Kevin Bradley said. “This constant uncertainty surrounding this Elliott story is another reason that the odds haven’t moved that much as well.”
There is some dispute as to whether Elliott would be eligible for the playoffs, assuming the Cowboys make it, should his six-game suspension be imposed during that time frame. The NFL’s initial letter to Elliott informing him of the suspension specifically mentioned “regular-season games,” although the league clarified that it would also include the postseason should those games fall in the six-game window.
But Elliott appeared ready to fight the NFL on that matter should it get there.
“I think they’re going to have to do whatever they said in the papers,” Elliott said.
Elliott has dealt with this cloud over his head since being accused of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, in July 2016. The Columbus, Ohio, city prosecutor’s office declined to pursue charges because of what it deemed misleading and inconsistent information from Thompson.
But the NFL investigated the situation for more than a year and went in a different direction. Kia Roberts, the only person from the league to interview Thompson, agreed with the Columbus attorneys in doubting Thompson’s credibility.
But commissioner Roger Goodell had a four-person ‘expert panel’ review the situation and each recommended punishment for Elliott. Goodell made the final decision to suspend Elliott.
The legal battle has been ongoing ever since. Six Flags could only dream of making a ride with as many twists and turns as this situation has taken so far.
But, as coach Jason Garrett has preached consistently, the Cowboys only “control what they can control.” For now, they’re excited and ready to have Elliott in the lineup Sunday.
“He’s obviously a really good football player,” Garrett said. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve done since we’ve got him last year. [We] feel very confident in the other running backs that we have on our team. Again two good practices, guys that have been experienced and productive players in this league, so we feel good about what their roles are, but certainly [Elliott] helps us.
“He’s been very productive for us from the first game he’s played. He’s been playing awfully well here of late and [we are] excited to have him back.”
Elliott’s legal timeline
Here’s the timeline since the NFL formally suspended Ezekiel Elliott on Aug. 11 after a year-long investigation determined that Elliott used physical force against his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson three times.
▪ Aug. 15: Elliott and the NFL players association announce they’ll appeal the suspension.
▪ Aug. 31: Elliott and his team appeal the league’s ruling in the Eastern District of Texas before arbitrator Harold Henderson renders a decision on the appeal.
▪ Sept. 5: Henderson upholds the suspension, news that happened to become public during the court hearing in the Eastern District of Texas.
▪ Sept. 5: The NFL files a motion to confirm Henderson’s arbitration hearing in the Southern District of New York.
▪ Sept. 8: Elliott and the NFLPA are granted an injunction by the Eastern District of Texas, allowing him to continue playing.
▪ Sept. 15: The NFL files a motion for a stay of the injunction with the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans.
▪ Oct. 5: A three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit votes 2-1 to vacate the preliminary injunction because of jurisdiction issues. Elliott is placed on the suspended list.
▪ Oct. 17: A Southern District of New York judge, Paul Crotty, grants Elliott a temporary restraining order through Oct. 30 as judge Katherine Failla is on vacation, again allowing Elliott to play.
▪ Monday: Failla denies Elliott’s request for a temporary injunction, and the NFL immediately imposes its six-game suspension.
▪ Friday: The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York issues an administrative stay that keep Elliott eligible for Sunday’s game against Kansas City.