If the Dallas Cowboys are going to bounce back in 2018, they’ll need Ezekiel Elliott on the field for the entire ride.
The absence of Elliott was felt in a big way this past season, when he finally conceded to an unjustified six-game suspension levied by the NFL for domestic violence allegations made by his disgruntled former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. Elliott fought tooth-and-nail to exonerate his name in the eyes of the league and public eye, something the Columbus (OH) criminal court had long done by opting to dismiss the case in its entirety.
Elliott returned from his vigorous training in Cabo, MX with a renewed sense of what comes with his celebrity status, and made it deathly clear he wanted to focus on making the future better than the past. Although not exactly what the media had in mind when they pressed him for his six-week regimen in the first locker room interview after he rejoined the team, it was music to the ears of a Cowboys’ organization that will rise and fall on the shoulder pads of the former rushing champ.
“You can only do so much,” said EVP Stephen Jones recently, via Todd Archer of ESPN. “These are grown men. I have a lot of confidence that Zeke has learned a lot. Hopefully he has. Because if he has and he changes his behavior and he’s able to stay on the field, we all know he can be one of the greatest to ever play the game, if he takes care of himself and takes care of his business off the field.
“I think Zeke wants that. He’s a competitor. I think he wants to be one of the best. He certainly knows that he’s got to take care of business, too.
“We’ve had great players that have had to do better before. Michael [Irvin] will tell you that he had to learn valuable lessons, but he turned out to be a Hall of Famer. I think if Zeke will pay attention and do the right things off the field and be responsible then he can certainly have an amazing career.”
It’s a stance that mirrors that of owner Jerry Jones, who spoke to the point earlier in the offseason, making it clear there will be no restrictions on Elliott as the offseason rolls along. Instead, they trust he’s grown from his experiences in the recent past and that his focus is on becoming the undisputed best RB in the NFL.
“Two things: No. 1, we all know that on a personal basis that issue was a hard issue for Zeke,” he said from Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, AL, via The Dallas Morning News. “Logic tells me that what he had to deal with that is a big deterrent in looking at anything like that in the future. That’s about the best way I know, that when those kinds of negative things happen to you there is usually follow, usually create deterrence for doing it again when you’ve had that kind of experience that he had this past year.
“That was a lot of punishment for him under the circumstances for what he didn’t do.”
And while the mountain of evidence supports no wrongdoing in the domestic violence case, Elliott hasn’t exactly been an angel in some other instances. The most notable being the ill-fated decision to pull down a young woman’s top during the 2016 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas. It ultimately came to light the woman and Elliott were friends and it’s been reported she egged him on to do it followed by the two partying in Miami not long after. And while it’s ultimately an error many youth can and will get away with, those individuals aren’t the face of the most valuable sports team on the planet.
With great power comes great responsibility.
To that point, Elliott appears wiser heading into 2018 and Jones is fine taking that at face value, with a clear and obvious reality the two have likely had several in-depth sit-downs about what it expected going forward. That needn’t be seen as an added demerit to Elliott though, as Jones makes clear everyone under contract is bound to the same protocol and he went one step further in proclaiming there will be no “Dez Rules” initiated on the star running back.
“I wouldn’t get into anything like that because it doesn’t apply,” Jones said. “The main thing is I wouldn’t want to imply there was anything done other than …there are a plenty of team rules, personal conduct rules, there are plenty of things in place and plenty of consequences in place as we’ve seen that should prevent that.”