Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will play at least two more games before a federal appeals court hears arguments on a preliminary injunction that blocks his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans posted a notice Friday that it would hear oral arguments from the NFL and NFL Players Association on Oct. 2 on the NFL’s emergency motion for a stay of the U.S. district court’s injunction.
That means Elliott will play Monday against the Arizona Cardinals and at home Oct. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.
The session is scheduled for noon Central time on Oct. 2 in New Orleans.
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The 5th Circuit Court essentially ignored a request from the NFL to have a ruling as early as Sept. 19 or no later than Sept. 26.
But the hearing is good news for the NFL, which wants Elliott’s suspension to be enforced while his lawsuit challenging the league’s appeal process moves toward a trial.
The 5th Circuit Court is seeking briefs from both sides by Wednesday on the issue of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant’s jurisdiction.
Mazzant granted Elliott’s request for an injunction that blocked the NFL’s suspension based on fundamental unfairness of the arbitration process and irreparable harm to Elliott.
Because Elliott filed his lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas before NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson announced his ruling on Elliott’s appeal, there is a question of whether the Texas court had proper jurisdiction.
Per sports attorney Daniel Wallach, the 5th Circuit could issue a stay and order Mazzant to dismiss the case.
The case could then move to the Southern District court in New York, the NFL’s home base.
“It is definitely not good news for Elliott,” Wallach said. “He should have been able to withstand the NFL’s motion for a stay based solely on the ‘irreparable harm’ issue, which heavily favors him. The fact that he didn’t prevail here could very well mean that the 5th Circuit has deep reservations about whether the Texas court properly has subject matter jurisdiction over the controversy.
“However, the court hasn’t necessarily made up its mind on jurisdiction either. Otherwise, it would have decided the motion without the need for oral argument. After all, the court already knows the parties’ arguments.”
WalIach calls this the proverbial “close call,” as it may ultimately come down to who gets the better of the oral arguments.
“If the NFLPA can persuade the court that there is jurisdiction in Texas, he will likely avoid any suspension for the balance of the 2017 season,” Wallach said. “On the other hand, if the court finds that jurisdiction is lacking, it will likely order the Texas case to be dismissed and we will begin the battle anew in the Southern District of New York almost immediately. Already this case has surpassed ‘Deflategate’ on the drama quotient.”
Elliott and the Cowboys are focused on Monday night in Arizona, hoping to rebound from a 42-17 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. Elliott rushed for a career-low 8 yards on nine carries.
“Yeah, we’re really just focused on today,” coach Jason Garrett said Friday. “We anticipate Zeke practicing today, we anticipate him playing in the ballgame. That’s really where our mindset and mentality is. We’re going to control what we can control until someone tells us otherwise.”