Ezekiel Elliott is back. He is leaner.
And seemingly meaner.
Both could be good for the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) in their final push for the playoffs, starting Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks (8-6).
They will get a motivated and fresh battering ram, who is also one of the league’s most explosive playmakers, to spark their offense over the final two games of the season.
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The latter, however, doesn’t bode well long-term in terms of the lessons learned from a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after being accused of domestic violence.
Elliott was never arrested or charged in the case and fought the NFL in court for the first weeks of the season before finally conceding to the process.
There is also no question his poor decision-making played a role in the situation.
And his impatient attitude on Wednesday showed a lack of self-awareness.
In his first words to the public during a media session Wednesday at the Cowboys headquarters after spending much of the past six weeks working out in Cabo San Lucas, Elliott thanked the Cowboys, teammates and fans for standing behind him during his ordeal.
But he refused to elaborate on his experiences or the planned documentary on his time away.
“I’m not really going to talk about it,” Elliott said. “It’s behind me. I’m just trying to start a new page, a new chapter. I’m going to thank this Cowboys organization for being behind me. Thank my family, my team and my friends for just supporting me through that time and especially the Cowboys fans who have stuck by me through this tough time and haven’t lost faith in me.
“But I’m not talking about it anymore. This is going to be the last time you hear me speak about it, so please don’t even ask me about it.”
Elliott showed little patience with the media, who asked a few more questions about his experiences and/or the documentary, shutting the much-anticipated interview down after 90 seconds
“It was great. The energy was high,” Elliott said about his first practice back with his teammates. “I missed all the guys. They missed me, and we’re excited to continue the season.”
He said “no” when asked to talk about what he’s done the past six weeks.
Asked about what message he wanted people to get from watching the documentary, Elliott responded with, “Just watch it. Tell me the message you get.”
He also said he didn’t know when it was coming out.
A question then arose regarding his conditioning, considering his teammates have all remarked about how much leaner he looked.
But Elliott wouldn’t bite.
“I’m ready to talk about the Seattle Seahawks,” Elliott said. “I’m ready to talk about the Dallas Cowboys. I’m not speaking on that anymore.”
One more question about why don’t you want to talk about that six-week stretch shut it down?
“All right, I’m done. Thank you,” Elliott said before abruptly walking away.
None of the questions were invasive. And all offered an opportunity for the 2016 NFL leading rusher to give an unfettered first impression to the public and Cowboys fans who hadn’t seen him six weeks.
But that proved to be too much.
What exactly it all means will be determined in the coming months and years.
The Cowboys are just happy to have him back for the final two games, his presence on the field and his swagger in practice and the locker room.
“It’s great. Obviously, his energy and his presence, what he brings with that alone are beneficial to this team,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Just his personality and the way he goes about his day and his excitement definitely brings that and it carries over throughout the week of practice and into Sunday.
“You can tell that he’s excited. You see that in him running around, his interaction with his teammates, he’s happy to be back.”
Elliott will make life easier for Prescott and the passing game because opponents won’t get to crowd the line of scrimmage.
Prescott summed up best why what he’s done over the past six weeks and what he’s been through can only benefit the Cowboys.
Prescott said Elliott understands he let the Cowboys down. The team went 3-3 in his absence. He said Elliott is motivated to make amends. He can tell by the shape in his in and how he approached practiced, finishing runs, attacking pass protection, doing exactly what he needs to do.
“Yeah, of course,” Prescott said of Elliott’s motivation. “I think that alone is pretty much, the fact that he probably never let his team down, never been in this position or situation, so to experience that, I know what it lit inside of him and, yeah, you’ll see it.
“He knows what’s important and that’s the game of football. I know it motivated him just watching the game and watching his teammates and his boys go out there and play. Obviously, him wanting to be out there, I know it lit a fire in him, just seeing him and the way he’s been performing, coming back you can tell … A guy who’s done the right thing in those six weeks and prepared himself to come back.”
Cowboys vs. Seahawks
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4