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There was never a doubt that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott would play in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.
Sure, he was banged up following a career-best performance in last Sunday’s 26-24 victory against the Detroit Lions leaving many to wonder how much he would practice this week, there was never a doubt he would play.
Even coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday morning that the plan for Elliott to be limited in practice and then see what he could do.
In the latest example of a maturing Elliott evolving from the team’s best players to one of its top leaders, the third-year star from Ohio State not only participated in all of practice Wednesday, despite ankle soreness and knee bursitis, but, according to him, he also had the best midweek practice of his career.
“I did all of practice. This is the best Wednesday practice I had,” Elliott said matter of factly in shrugging off questions about his injuries. “This is the freshest I have felt of any Wednesday. I did a good job of coming in and getting that treatment to be ready to go today. I got to thank the training staff and all those guys for helping me keep back on my feet. I’m good.”
Credit does go to team’s athletic trainers and medical staff for getting Elliott ready to go after a physical outing against the Lions that undoubtedly took a toll on his body. He had a season-high 25 carries for 152 yards and four catches for 88 yards, giving him a career-best 240 yards of total offense.
Elliott said he’s ready for the same load or more on Sunday against the Texans because he is young and has fresh legs and is ready to do whatever to help the Cowboys.
Part of that process is understanding the importance of taking care of his own body and making a point to be on the field for practice on Wednesday.
Combine that with Elliott making his presence felt as a vocal leader before Sunday’s dominant effort against the Lions and it’s the latest example and certain manifestation of him embracing his new role as one of the team leaders.
He replaced injured linebacker Sean Lee in breaking the team down before the Lions game and set the tone for his teammates with his passion and enthusiasm.
Guard Zack Martin said he’s never seen Elliott that amped up before a game and knew he would have a big performance. Quarterback Dak Prescott echoed similar sentiments.
“It got me jacked up,” Martin said. “I had a feeling he was going to go off. And he did.”
Elliott said he has always embraced being the focal point of the offense. It’s a role he has been used to dating back to high school and college at Ohio State.
It’s why he was picked No. 4 overall by the Cowboys in 2016 and he loves it.
But this is the first time he’s assumed the role of vocal leader on the team. He has normally let his play speak for itself and let others do the talking.
With long-time leaders like tight end Jason Witten (retired) and receiver Dez Bryant (released), he recognized before the season that it was incumbent on him as one of the team’s best players to fill the void. Lee being injured opened the door for him to break down the team against the Lions but his presence at practice showed that this is a new role that he has embraced.
“This is a new dimension for me,” Elliott said. “I never really had to have been that guy. With Witt gone, Dez gone, and Sean Lee getting hurt, you see opportunities open up and sometimes you have to be that guy. And I’m going to do whatever I have to do for this team for whatever we have to do to be successful.”