Dallas Cowboys

Motivated Ezekiel Elliott focused on future, not the past

Diving hits and fourth-down tricks from top playmakers give Cowboys win over the Raiders

There were a lot of players involved in the twists and turns of the Dallas Cowboys’ 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders, and big plays kept the game in doubt until the final minute.
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There were a lot of players involved in the twists and turns of the Dallas Cowboys’ 20-17 win over the Oakland Raiders, and big plays kept the game in doubt until the final minute.

Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott doesn't want to talk about the past.

He doesn't want to open up about the lessons he's learned during the NFL's investigation into domestic violence allegations and the subsequent battle in federal court before conceding to a six-game suspension.

He might be more expressive when a documentary on his training and experience during a roughly 40-day stint in Cabo San Lucas, is released.

Elliott just wants to move forward. He will take the first step in the process Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in what will be his first game back.

His actions during his stint in Mexico and since his return speak for him.

And they reveal a motivated Elliott not only driven to be better than he was before he left but also a player seemingly bent on making amends for letting his teammates down. His absence has made the Cowboys (8-6), who went 3-3 during his suspension, longshots to make the playoffs.

“I respect that,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I think when you go through that you want to move on from it. I think he has the ability to process what happened and reflect, learn and move forward. When you have something like that play out in front of us all, when it's over, you are ready to move forward and get back to the normal things that you love to do.

“He has done a good job of getting back to his team and going back to work and not trying to make a bigger deal of it. A lot of work has gone to that on his end to give himself a chance to play at that level on Sunday.”

An intense training regiment on a golf resort in Cabo has resulted in Elliott being trimmer and leaner than he was before he left.

He might weigh the same, but his body is more defined, which might say something about the shape he entered the season in, but says more about the type of work he put in Mexico to make sure he could have a big impact on his return.

Coach Jason Garrett said Elliott didn't miss a beat in his return to practice with the team.

“He certainly looks good,” Garrett said Thursday. “Stepped right in there and did what we asked him to do.”

Quarterback Dak Prescott chatted with Elliott during his time away and he came back looking like “a guy who has done the right thing in those six weeks and prepared himself to come back.”

“He’s in great shape, out there in practice, he’s hitting every run, he’s taking them all 20 yards or so, finishing them, pass protection, all that, he’s doing exactly what he needs to do," Prescott said. “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.”

While the Cowboys touted Elliott's infectious personality and fun spirit as things they looked forward to him bringing back to the locker room, what they got was a player with the look and resolve of determination on his countenance.

Running back coach Gary Brown said Elliott has not joked as much during position meetings and looked to be more serious and focused.

Prescott offer a reason why.

“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,” Prescott said.

Said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, “I’m sure that experience is humbling. For a competitor, it’s a humbling experience, a very motivating experience. He’s in great shape – that’s just what he’s been doing in his absence. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a guy who’s got a lot of motivation as he plays the game. I think he’s very determined."

What isn't a surprise is Linehan's plan to take advantage of Elliott's motivation and use it to the Cowboys advantage against the Seahawks.

Elliott had 115 carries for 506 yards, three catches for 92 yards and six total touchdowns in the four games before he began his suspension.

That average of 28.75 carries per game during that stint is the baseline of what can be expected on Sunday. He said there won't be any easing back in and that Elliott will have fresh legs.

“I think we’re going to have significant touches,” Linehan said, via Todd Archer of ESPN. “He looks like he’s in great shape. Practicing great. He just looks great. So he’s one of those guys that trains and prepares for the games. I think he’s ready to roll. I think it’s business as usual for us so to speak when he comes back in. Hopefully, we don’t miss a beat.”

Ready to roll, just not ready to talk.

Look for his play to tell the story just as his attitude and conditioning have already spoken for him.

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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