Dallas Cowboys

NFLPA to petition 5th Circuit for rehearing on Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension

From the scene of Ezekiel Elliott's hearing in New Orleans

Lawyers for the NFL run into Ezekiel Elliott lawyers before 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans
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Lawyers for the NFL run into Ezekiel Elliott lawyers before 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and his legal team are not giving up their legal fight with the NFL over his six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

One day after having his preliminary injunction thrown out and his case ordered to be dismissed by 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Elliott informed a New York judge that he plans to file a petition for a rehearing before the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

It’s largely a “Hail Mary,” as Elliott’s team of NFL Players Association lawyers likely feel they will have a better chance of success with a rehearing with the 5th Circuit.

The other option is filing for a new temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction with the Southern District Court of New York, which is viewed as a more favorable court for the NFL. The league won its Deflate-gate case against Tom Brady in that court.

The three-panel judges voted 2-1 to grant the NFL’s emergency request and ordered the U.S. Eastern District of Texas Court in Sherman to dismiss Elliott’s case.

The vote was not unanimous, with James E. Graves issuing a dissenting opinion in Elliott’s favor. Jennifer Elrod and Edward Prado swung the decision in the NFL’s favor.

Essentially, the 5th Circuit agreed with the NFL, ruling Elliott had not exhausted all remedies under the collective bargaining agreement, thus he filed too soon and the Texas court did not have proper jurisdiction to rule.

If granted the full review, Elliott and his lawyers have asked that the preliminary injunction blocking the suspension be reinstated.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the court ruling is significant and the league expects Elliott to serve a six-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy barring another court judgment.

“It’s an important part of our personal conduct policy to apply the discipline in a timely manner and not allow it to be postponed or maneuvered in a way that gets to issues that we hold very important, that is both timely discipline and the competitive issues that are so important to us here at the league,” Lockhart said Friday in a conference call with reporters.

Lockhart defended the league’s investigation into Elliott that lasted more than a year. Elliott’s ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic violence in July 2016.

Columbus, Ohio, prosecutors declined to pursue charges because of misleading and inconsistent information from Thompson. But the NFL determined that Elliott used physical force against Thompson at least three times.

The league suspended Elliott on Aug. 11 and arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the ruling following Elliott’s appeal on Sept. 5.

“We hold our players to a standard that is not reliant from what local law enforcement does, or what any individual prosecutor may do in the country,” Lockhart said. “We’ve invested a lot in holding our players to a high standard. We’ve invested a lot in being able to do our own independent investigations. This investigation went on for almost a year, it was thorough, it was comprehensive and, most importantly, it was fundamentally fair to the player.

“As far as our personal conduct policy and on issues of domestic violence, we are sending a strong message that this kind of behavior is not acceptable in the NFL and our workplace. We will continue to look into any case that comes to our attention, investigate it and apply the appropriate discipline.”

Owner Jerry Jones said in a radio interview Friday on 105.3 The Fan that he does not believe Elliott was treated fairly by the league and called Thursday’s court decision a “setback.” But, he said, Elliott and his representatives are still working to get the suspension overturned. Jones did not want to speculate on what Elliott’s team might do.

“It’s not the thing to do right now to get into how we will respond, but we support Zeke,” Jones said. “I’m very familiar with all of the facts and the details of this case, very familiar. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done regarding law. And Zeke did not get treated very fair here.”

As of now, Elliott will miss the next six games following Sunday’s bye, starting with the Oct. 22 matchup at the San Francisco 49ers, the Oct. 29 game at the Washington Redskins, at home Nov. 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nov. 12 at the Atlanta Falcons, Nov. 19 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Nov. 23 Thanksgiving Day game against the Washington Redskins.

Elliott is eligible to return to the team Nov. 24.

Elliott, 22, has played in the first five games for the 2-3 Cowboys. He leads the team with 393 rushing yards on 105 carries, averaging 3.7 yards a carry. He was the NFL’s rushing champion as a rookie a year ago with 1,631 yards.

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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