Ezekiel Elliott

Zeke Officially Placed Back On Active Roster

After a long fight with the NFL that led to an eventual suspension being taken in Week 9, Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott is finally set to return to game action on Sunday after being officially placed on the team’s 53-man roster this afternoon, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

Elliott, 22, has been one of the premier runners in football since he took the league by storm during his rookie campaign in 2016. However, his sophomore season has proved to be more tumultuous as the former Ohio State Buckeye was suspended by the league for six games after he was charged with assault over the summer. Some notable pushback by Elliott and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones delayed his suspension to the middle of the season, with Elliott remaining separated from the team for six games from Weeks 9 through 15.

Dallas has won their last three contests after dropping their first three without their featured back. This most recent winning streak has allowed the Cowboys to go into a playoff “elimination” game vs. the Seahawks this weekend. While backups Alfred Morris and Rod Smith were competent in relief, the Dallas offense is expected to take a notable step up with Elliott in the backfield.

In his eight games this season, Elliott has rushed for 783 yards on 191 carries, including seven touchdowns. With his suspension complete, Dallas certainly stands a much better chance of running the table and sneaking their way into the final NFC Wild Card spot.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Lions, Cards, Broncos

By accepting his suspension and serving it this season, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will actually save money, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News notes (Twitter links). Elliott’s base salary increases to roughly $2.7MM in 2018, meaning a six-game ban would have cost him ~$400K more had it been pushed to next year. Instead, he’ll lose about $560K this season, and his guarantees in the 2018-19 campaigns have been voided. Elliott’s signing bonus, however, is not at risk due to his suspension.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Because the collective bargaining agreement allows for player contract language which voids salary guarantees under certain provisions, teams could hypothetically insert clauses which nullify guarantees if a player does not stand for the national anthem, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com opines. Such a provision would be similar to the so-called Carl Pickens Rule, named after the Bengals wideout who criticized management at the turn of the century. Loyalty clauses can now restrict such denunciations with the threat of lost salary, and a similar rule could speculatively have a similar effect on national anthem protests. Of course, the NFLPA (and players themselves) would likely fight such a stipulation.
  • Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter declined to comment on his interest in the University of Tennessee’s vacant head coaching position, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Cooter played and coached for the Volunteers before heading to the NFL. Under Cooter’s leadership, Detroit finished 15th in offensive DVOA in 2016, but has slipped to 21st this season. Tennessee has already expressed interest in another ex-Vol, Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers.
  • Given the injury to quarterback Drew Stanton, the Cardinals could opt to start Blaine Gabbert under center on Sunday, and the club is reportedly “intrigued” by the former first-round pick, reports Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM (Twitter link), who adds Arizona believes Gabbert could be more than a bridge option for the club. While Gabbert does come with a high draft pedigree, he’s shown nothing in the NFL during his six-year career. Since entering the league in 2011, Gabbert ranks dead last in quarterback rating, touchdown percentage, and adjusted net yards per pass attempt. Both Gabbert and Stanton are scheduled to become free agents next spring, while starter Carson Palmer could theoretically hang up his cleats after flirting with retirement earlier this year.
  • The Broncos worked out free agent punter Jeff Locke on Thursday, but it doesn’t sound as though Denver is interested in signing the veteran specialist, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. Denver is facing a left-footed punter in the Bengals’ Kevin Huber on Sunday, so auditioning Locke gave returner Jordan Taylor a chance to catch punts from a lefty. Locke signed a relatively large (for a punter) deal with the Colts this offseason, but has since been cut by both Indianapolis and Detroit.

Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott Withdraws Appeal

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is withdrawing his appeal, agents Rocky Arceneaux and Frank Salzano tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The NFLPA also announced that it has withdrawn its lawsuit against the league. Elliott will serve his full six-game suspension. He will miss the next five games and return in Week 16 against the Seahawks. Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

In consultation with the NFLPA and his lawyers, and after careful deliberation and review of the recent Second Circuit decisions, Mr. Elliott has decided to forego any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension,” the statement reads. “This decision arises from a practical assessment of the current legal landscape. Mr. Elliott’s desire for closure in this matter is in his best interest, as well as the best interests of his teammates, family, and friends.

This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Elliott is pleased that the legal fight mounted by he and his team resulted in disclosing many hidden truths regarding this matter as well as publicly exposing the NFL’s mismanagement of its disciplinary process. Mr. Elliott will maximize this time away from the game and come back even stronger both on and off the field. He intends to release a final personal statement in the upcoming weeks and until then we have no further comment.”

Elliott will release a statement at some point that will explain his decision further, Rapoport tweets. Meanwhile, the NFLPA may still continue the battle in court.

On Nov. 9, the Second Circuit ruled to reinstate Elliott’s ban, sidelining him for Dallas’ game against the Falcons. Initially, an expedited appeal in front of the Second Circuit court was scheduled for December 1st. Instead, Elliott is accepting the suspension, which most likely would have had to have been served at some point. By taking the hit now, Elliott can ensure that he will be eligible for this year’s playoffs, assuming the Cowboys get there.

The running back will miss games against the Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Giants, and Raiders before returning.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: R. Wilson, Gruden, Eli, Bennett

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, citing a source close to the situation, reports that the Seahawks violated the league’s concussion protocol by allowing quarterback Russell Wilson to reenter Thursday night’s game against Arizona without going to the locker room and being cleared by a team doctor and an independent physician. However, a league spokesman told ESPN that the NFL has not conducted any interviews yet, so it has not reached any conclusions. The NFL and NFLPA will jointly review the situation over the coming weeks.

If Seattle is determined to have violated the protocol, it could be fined up to $150K.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Every year, it seems, we hear rumors concerning Jon Gruden‘s potential return to the sidelines as a head coach. With his former team, the Buccaneers, sputtering in 2017, and with Dirk Koetter looking less likely to return in 2018, Gruden-to-Tampa Bay rumors will only continue to pick up steam, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. Gruden has mended his relationship with Bucs ownership and still lives about 10 minutes from the team facility, and a source close to him indicated it is possible that Gruden returns to the Bucs.
  • The Giants have no plans to bench Eli Manning, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes. Although their long-time signal-caller does not figure to be a part of any long-term rebuild, Rapoport says it would take a catastrophe for Big Blue to sit Manning down this season.
  • The Packers released Martellus Bennett with a Failure to Disclose a Physical Condition designation, alleging that Bennett failed to tell the team that he had a torn rotator cuff before he signed with the team this offseason. Bennett, of course, refutes that notion, but Green Bay intends to recoup the signing bonus it paid to Bennett, per Rapoport. Whether the Packers will seek the full $6.3MM bonus or the $4.2MM prorated portion is unclear, but they have over a month in which to file their grievance.
  • Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, whose suspension was reinstated earlier this week, is leaving the country to clear his head and train in an undisclosed location, per Rapoport (via Twitter).

Latest On Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott

The latest ruling in the Ezekiel Elliott saga will put his six-game suspension into motion starting with this Sunday’s game against the Falcons. He still has options to fight the ban, but it will take a while before he can realistically get another legal intervention. Elliott’s expedited appeal in front of the Second Circuit court is scheduled for December 1st, as Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweetsEzekiel Elliott (vertical)

The Cowboys have four games between now and 12/1, so Elliott will almost certainly miss games against the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins. After that, Elliott will have to assess whether to fight the league on the remaining two games. In theory, it seems possible that Elliott could stave off the final two games of his scheduled suspension only to have the ban reinstated in the postseason (assuming the Cowboys qualify).

The Cowboys are 5-3 heading into Sunday’s game with Atlanta. They have serious ground to make up in order to catch the 8-1 Eagles for the NFC East crown and they’ll have to do it without their best offensive weapon – at least for the next month.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension Is Back On

The latest legal volley in the Ezekiel Elliott case has gone in the NFL’s favor. The Second Circuit has ruled in favor of the Cowboys’ running back. His six-game suspension goes into effect immediately, meaning that he will not be eligible to return until Dec. 24 against the Seahawks unless there is another ruling to shift things back in his favor. Ezekiel Elliott (vertical)

The “good news” for Elliott is that his appeal will be heard on an expedited basis. It’s possible that he will be able to get another ruling from the courts before the six-game suspension ends.

Today’s hearing lasted only 30 minutes and ended without a ruling right away. Minutes later, however, the judging panel came back with a verdict to deny Elliott’s request for an injunction.

While Elliott is out, the Cowboys are expected to lean on Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, and Darren McFadden to keep the running game moving. Those three cannot offer the same explosiveness as Elliott, but it’s as good of a Plan B as anyone could have in the NFL.

Elliott, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 draft, has 783 yards and seven touchdowns off of 191 carries this season (4.1 yards per carry). He also has 19 catches for 210 yards and two scores.

Assuming the ban holds up, Elliott will miss games against the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, Giants, and Raiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ezekiel Elliott Rumors: Thursday

On Thursday afternoon, a hearing convened on the Ezekiel Elliott injunction that wasn’t originally supposed to happen. Reportedly, Elliott’s camp saw the hearing, which was not an automatic to happen, as a positive.

Here’s the latest on that hearing and where things stand for the Cowboys’ star running back:

  • The hearing ended after 30 minutes without a decision and there is no timetable for a ruling (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). If no ruling comes down by the end of the business day on Friday, Elliott will presumably in action on Sunday against the Falcons.
  • If the next ruling does go in the NFL’s favor, his six-game ban will start immediately. “The moment the stay is lifted, the suspension is enforced,” league spokesman Joe Lockhart said (via the Dallas News’ David Moore). “Whatever time that happens, it’s enforced. If the result is some extension to hear further arguments, the suspension is stayed. This is very much in the court’s hands right now. They will dictate when the suspension will start.”
  • The judges asked the NFLPA what difference it would have made to have Elliott’s accuser testify at the arbitration hearing, as requested by Elliott’s camp (Twitter link via Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News).
  • They also wondered how NFL investigators could suspend Elliott on a “credible evidence” standard when they admitted to finding credibility issues with the accuser (Twitter links). The league replied that the credibility issues were about only two of the five alleged incidents and Elliott was not punished for those.

Ezekiel Elliott Rumors: Monday

All parties involved in the Ezekiel Elliott saga say they are are not interested in a settlement. However, on Sunday, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported that Elliott’s team has indeed been pushing for a compromise.

Will we see a settlement in which Elliott accepts something less than a six-game ban? It still seems highly unlikely given the comments made by the NFL and Elliott’s desire to clear his name.

For now, things remain in limbo as the two sides duke it out in the courts. We’ll keep track of the latest here:

  • The next hearing on the Elliott injunction will take place at 2pm ET/1pm CT on Thursday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit announced. There might not be enough time for a ruling to come down before Sunday, so it seems like Elliott could be able to suit up on Sunday against the Falcons, regardless of the outcome. Thanks to an administrative stay, Elliott was able to suit up this past Sunday against the Chiefs. The running back finished out with 93 yards and one touchdown off of 27 carries.
  • A hearing was not originally supposed to occur on the pending Elliott motion and the running back’s representatives see it as a positive development in their favor, Mike Florio of PFT hears (Twitter link).
  • Elliott perhaps caught a break in avoiding Denny Chin or Barrington Parker as the judge in his upcoming hearing, sports attorney Daniel Wallach (on Twitter) notes. Chin and Parker both ruled in the NFL’s favor during the Deflategate saga.

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins

While the NFL and NFLPA haven’t shown any inclination to pursue a settlement in Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension case, Elliott and his attorneys have indeed been pushing for some sort of settlement, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports. While it’s unclear how many banned games Elliott and his team have offered to the league, the NFL is not interested in any agreement. Elliott will play against the Chiefs this week after being granted an administrative stay, and could potentially be available for several months if he wins an injunction from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

  • While the Eagles didn’t acquire a left tackle in advance of last week’s trade deadline, they did engage in talks for both Cordy Glenn (Bills) and Duane Brown (Texans), according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (Twitter link). However, Philadelphia quickly realized no fit existed in regards to a possible Glenn deal, while the trade of Brown to Seattle — which netted the Texans second- and third-round picks — drove up the price for left tackles across the board, per La Canfora. The Eagles, who eventually picked up only running back Jay Ajayi before the deadline, were on the lookout for a blindside protector after losing stalwart Jason Peters for the season.
  • The Redskins worked out running backs Marcus Murphy, Dare Ogunbowale, Jhurell Pressley, Josh Rounds, and Trey Williams last week, per Howard Balzer of Sports on Earth (Twitter link). Of the group, Murphy is by far the most experienced, as he’s 16 games since entering the league in 2015. He’s mostly served as a return man (just two career touches on offense), and that’s likely the role he’d hold in Washington if signed.
  • Already fielding one of the league’s worst offensive lines, the Giants‘ front five was further weakened last week when center Weston Richburg was placed on injured reserve with a concussion. Richburg, 26, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in the spring.

NFC Notes: Zeke, Beasley, Seahawks

It’s been a roller coaster news cycle regarding Ezekiel Elliott‘s six-game suspension since the regular season started. Now in another twist, it appears that if the second-year running back’s suspension is officially handed down in December, the league will force him to sit out through the playoffs, reports Clarence Hill Jr. of the Star Telegram (Twitter link). This news adds another aspect to the ongoing legal feud in that if the team felt that Elliott was going to eventually serve his suspension, wouldn’t they rather him take it now rather than wait till playoff time? It’s an interesting question, and while the 22 year-old has repeatedly stated his intention to fight the league, the issue will remain a cloud over Jerry Jones‘ organization for the rest of the year. Elliott will be allowed to suit up for this Sunday’s game after the United States Court of Appeals granted him a stay earlier in the day.

  • In other Cowboys news, another pivotal member of the offense is set to play in Week 9 as well. Wide receiver Cole Beasley cleared his final step of concussion protocol today after taking the week trying to recover from his head slamming to the ground in last Sunday’s game versus Washington, according to Brandon George of Dallas News. Beasley stated that he didn’t really suffer any concussion symptoms throughout the week, but was definitely feeling the effects of the contact during the game. “It wasn’t crazy,” Beasley said. “It was just kind of some dizziness when I hit the ground and it only lasted for a little while. I was able to pass most of the concussion test stuff, but some of the stuff we did it started making me kind of nauseous and made feel like I was going to throw up and they held me out.”
  • The Seahawks are in a tough spot with injuries heading into this week’s contest against Washington. Apart from Earl Thomas potentially missing a few games, the team also may be without defensive starters Sheldon Richardson (oblique) and Bobby Wagner (hamstring) with both players being officially listed as questionable, according to Brady Anderson of ESPN.com. Anderson does report that safety Kam Chancellor will play in Week 9 after dealing with an ankle injury throughout the week. However, losing these three key defensive starters would greatly hurt a Seattle team that is riding a ton of positive momentum after winning their last four games.
  • Anderson also passes along that Seattle’s newest trade acquisition, tackle Duane Brown, is adjusting to his new team’s offense well because of his experience with the Seahawks zone-blocking scheme, according to head coach Pete Carroll. “He’s done exceptionally well,” Carroll said. “Like we said earlier, the carry-over that he had from six years being in the same system has really ensured that he can make this transition as fast as you possibly could make it.” Brown figures to be a major upgrade at left tackle ahead of the team’s former starter on the blind side, Rees Odhiambo, who ranks as the worst qualified tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.