The Dallas Cowboys are always special and now they have the distinction of being held together by a Temporary Restraining Order.
As long as the law sides with the Cowboys, and specifically running back Ezekiel Elliott, they should be fine this season.
As evidenced by the Cowboys’ 19-3 season-opening win against the New York Giants on Sunday night at JerryWorld, the home team has more toys than just a second-year running back from Ohio State.
The Cowboys have Dak, Dez and Jason Witten, so they are not all about Zeke. They are also nowhere the team they want to be without him. He is a fantasy football owner’s fantasy. He is one of the top five most explosive players in the NFL.
Barring a surprising turn of events, the Cloud of Zeke will follow the player, this team, and the entire fan base the entire season. We’re going to have to make peace with it, with the implicit understanding we might very well be cheering for a guy who is indeed guilty of hitting his ex-girlfriend. On multiple occasions.
The specifics are cloudy, and the only uncertainty is the whole sordid ordeal is gross. This whole thing is the worst of pro sports.
The last time a high-profile player had something like this hanging over his head, and his team, was 2003 when LA Lakers guard Kobe Bryant played the season after he had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Colorado hotel room.
That ugly saga lasted for more than a year, and it was a rather large weight on the player and the organization.
On Sunday night the Cowboys started the season 1-0 with so many positive storylines ranging from Dak Prescott to Witten to Tank Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, and we’re talking about Zeke for the wrong reason. Because it’s news. Because it matters.
As expected, Zeke started after a judge in Sherman granted a temporary restraining order against the NFL from enforcing its six-game suspension for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend in 2016.
Because God forbid the Cowboys do anything — ever — without extra noise.
Against the Giants, Zeke was Zeke: He ran the ball 24 times for 104 yards, and he caught five passes for 36 yards.
You are damn right Jerry Jones is going help cover the costs for Zeke’s legal defense team.
According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, the NFL is expected to decide on Monday whether it will appeal the ruling that blocked Zeke from being suspended. If the NFL proceeds with that appeal, it could potentially get a ruling before the Cowboys play the Denver Broncos next Sunday in Denver. That would then allow the NFL to keep Zeke on the bench.
According to a Cowboys source, their legal representatives have told them they do not think this scenario is going to happen. That the Cowboys are preparing for this thing to drag out for “the long haul,” the source said.
That means the season.
“Zeke has handled this situation like a professional,” Witten said. “We’ve addressed it. We’ve handled it. He’s going to grow and learn from it. He’s a great football player.”
No one is disputing that, which makes this so difficult.
Cowboys fans passionately believe Zeke is a victim of an angry ex-girlfriend who set him up. It’s cliche victim-blaming that, in this case, has legs.
What also has legs is that he might have done it.
Put down your Cowboys Big Gulp of Bias and acknowledge what you don’t know, and that these things do happen. Tragically all the time.
Nonetheless, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is in constant contact with the NFL Players Association, and he’s been told to plan on having Zeke.
The Cowboys have no idea what to expect. Not anymore. A team source said on Sunday night that, at worst, the Cowboys had expected maybe Zeke would be suspended a pair of games for violating the league’s policy on player behavior. For what, the source said, “Is the whole body of work.”
The Cowboys would have been OK with Zeke being suspended for two games, relatively speaking. This six-game suspension, however, drives them to the brink.
While so many fans want to blame NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over this decision, never forget all he is doing is what he’s paid to do. He’s also partially enabled by a players union that once again failed its clients by agreeing to vague language in the collective bargaining agreement that allows Goodell to be God-ell.
This is not like the time New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appealed a four-game suspension for his involvement in the silly, exaggerated and needlessly important Deflagate Scandal.
Brady appealed Goodell’s ruling, which allowed him to play the entire 2015 season. Brady eventually gave up, and served his suspension to start the 2016 season.
There may be some similarities between Zeke and Brady’s respective cases, but they stop with this: Brady was accused of taking some air out of a football whereas Zeke’s corporate employer believes he hit his girlfriend.
She might be lying. He might be lying. We don’t know.
What we do know is that it’s ugly, and as fans and consumers we’re going to have to make peace with it. Because the Zeke Cloud is not going away this season, and the only way the Cowboys can be a Super Bowl contender is if a TRO holds up for the rest of the year.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof