Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott called his NFL debut “average.”
Average isn’t the description he or the team expect to use much considering he’s the fourth overall pick running behind arguably the top offensive line in the game.
Asked to assess his debut, Elliott said: “I think I was average, you know. Average. That’s not why I was brought here to be average, so we’ve got a lot of work to get done. A lot to work on.
“But, you know, it’s the NFL. You can’t win every game, so I’ve just got to get back to work and get better next week.”
Elliott finished his day with 51 rushing yards on 20 carries. The 2.6 yard per carry average is less than half of what he averaged at Ohio State (6.7 yards per carry).
Elliott’s best runs came early in the third quarter with a pair of 8-yard runs on the same drive, including an 8-yard touchdown run.
Elliott went up the middle and dove into the end zone for the score, and was immediately congratulated by the offensive line.
“Just my read, came inside, saw the bounces and got in the end zone,” Elliott said of his touchdown.
Elliott also had one catch for 1 yard, and held his own in pass protection.
Still, it wasn’t the debut most had expected from the favorite to win the league’s offensive rookie of the year honors.
“I was hoping to have a better day for sure,” Elliott said. “The type of guy I am, the type of competitor I am, I’m a little bit disappointed. But you’ve got to start somewhere. All we can do is get better from here.
“We didn’t play terrible today. We had a lot of chances to win the game. We didn’t score in the red zone. We’ve got to punch it in in the red zone. But, I mean, just got to get better.”
Elliott said his NFL debut felt like a normal game, and he didn’t have any nerves going into it. He fully intends to become the kind of player he was at Ohio State when he rushed for more than 1,800 yards his final two seasons.
Tony Romo was on the Cowboys sideline Sunday, and owner Jerry Jones said his starting quarterback expects to return to the lineup “sooner rather than later.”
Romo had X-rays on the compression fracture in his back last week.
“Everything is fine, not fine, but is on go,” Jones said. “[The X-rays showed] nothing that would in any way get in the area of a setback or would show concern.”
Romo injured his back in the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys did not place Romo on short-term injured reserve, hoping for his return for the Oct. 30 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But they have not ruled out the Oct. 16 game against the Green Bay Packers for Romo to get back on the field.
Jones, though, said there is no timetable for when Romo can start working out.
“Romo is upbeat,” Jones said. “He is just doing what he needs to be doing. He still has his support and will continue to have that support. It’s about not getting overzealous sitting down.
“He expects to be back sooner rather than later.”
The Cowboys are 10-24 without Romo since he became the full-time starter in 2006, including 1-11 last season.
Cole Beasley was injured on a 15-yard reception in the waning seconds Sunday. But the fifth-year veteran said the back of his right shoulder will be fine with ice.
“It was just like a contusion, like when you get kneed in the quad,” Beasley said. “It just went dead. I couldn’t lift my arm, so I had to come out. I can’t catch if I can’t lift my damn arm. That’s it. If there was two more plays, if we had a little bit more time, I would have come back in that next play. But time ran out.”
Beasley made eight catches for 65 yards. He was Dak Prescott’s second- favorite target to Jason Witten, with Prescott targeting him 12 times.
In other injury news:
▪ Left tackle Tyron Smith exited with a neck injury for a few plays, but returned. Smith has dealt with a stinger throughout training camp. Swing tackle Chaz Green stepped in for the few plays Smith missed.
▪ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick also missed a few snaps with a hamstring injury that flared up. Scandrick also returned, but rookie Anthony Brown filled in his spot.
Staff writers Charean Williams and Clarence E. Hill Jr. contributed to this report.