Hall of Fame running back and TCU great LaDainian Tomlinson created a stir Sunday evening when he said Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott quit on his team during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Denver Broncos.
Tomlinson, an analyst for NFL Network, wasn’t pleased with Elliott’s effort on a pair of interceptions thrown by Dak Prescott. Coach Jason Garrett said so much during his postgame news conference Monday.
Elliott didn’t appear to chase down Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib on a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the game. Earlier in the game, replays showed Elliott with his hands on his hips as Chris Harris Jr. returned an interception 23 yards.
Tomlinson went more in-depth Monday on why he ripped Elliott.
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“Let me first say this is not about trying to kill Zeke or be really critical of him,” Tomlinson said on NFL Network. “This is constructive criticism. This young man has the opportunity to be great — maybe one day even have one of these, a Hall of Fame ring. This situation was about his effort on a particular play. It had nothing to do with his demeanor on the sideline or his apathy on the sideline. It’s not about that. I’ve been there; I’ve been frustrated on the sideline. This is simply an effort thing.
“If you watch this film [of Prescott’s interception], this is what I’m talking about. It’s the effort of showing your teammates that you’re a part of this, that you want to be good and that you’re going to help them out in these types of times. This stuff [an interception] is going to happen. He can easily turn around and go get Chris Harris. Your natural reaction as a competitor and as a player is when you see that is to go get him right away.
“If that was me, I’m thinking right away I’m going to run him down, I’m going to strip the ball and try to get it back. And if I don’t strip it, I’m going to hit this guy so hard that he’s never going to want to intercept the ball again. The fact that he looked at Chris Harris, turned around and walked away — that’s quitting on your team.”
Asked how often he sees a player handle the play such as Elliott, Tomlinson said: “Not very often. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen that type of effort on a play like that.”
Tomlinson said running backs are taught to make that tackle. Garrett said the Cowboys preach to players that they become offensive or defensive players during turnovers.
“My running backs coach Clarence Shelmon always told us the running backs are supposed to chase the guys down and make the tackles for one specific reason: you don’t want the quarterbacks involved, the linemen are usually too slow to catch a DB and it’s up to the running backs, who most of us have played defense at some point in time throughout our career, to go chase that guy down and make that tackle,” Tomlinson said.