The Dallas Cowboys hosted their annual “State of the Team” press conference to kick off training camp yesterday, and as you can imagine a lot of the 40-minute gathering with the media focused largely on the Dallas Cowboy's star running back; Ezekiel Elliott.
With players reporting for their scheduled physicals in the morning on Friday, Elliott was officially deemed “late” or “did not report” by the team, but one thing was evident when Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett were asked about Elliott's absence. They weren't at all concerned.
In Jerry Jones' opening remarks, he made a point to say that “every player that we have is under contract” several times. When asked by Jane Slater from the NFL Network if the Dallas Cowboys planned to fine Elliott for his tardiness, Jones deflected saying, “I've not ever made it a practice of getting into the details of how we execute our agreements (with players). Meaning that fining a player for reporting late is in the contract that the team and the player have negotiated, but Jerry Jones wasn't going to say whether or not they have opted to use that option available to them.
This is a front office that has seen it all and is used to having to negotiate and finalize contracts during training camp and so they aren't at all alarmed by Elliott's absence.
Here's what Jerry Jones had to say regarding Elliott's absence:
“I'd say there are very few conversations that Stephen and I have that at some point in that convo we're not discussing the player, impact on other players relative to the cap and financial. It's almost like getting up and turning the lights on, it's such an every day (occurrence). You livewith this all the time. And so when you don't have the player on the field, for whatever reason, then you would be discussing, “well that's why we put that in place”… “what are the repercussions?” It's not alarming… that you have to go to bed thinking about some aspect of it when dealing with the number of contracts that you are.
“So that's why I don't want to seem cavalier about it, Zeke's a great player, I don't want to seem cavalier about it, but I also don't want to be unrealistic being alarmed about it. This is what we do. This is the air we breathe. And if you flared and knee-jerked just because you have parts of it that need addressing, you wouldn't be a good managers.”
Jerry Jones via DallasCowboys.com
Later in the press conference, Jerry made a point to single out Jason Garrett and coaches in general because they have to live in the “next man up” world. They have to prepare for and deal with players being absent due to injury, suspension, and sometimes financial situations. Garrett reiterated this as he talked about the opportunity that arises for another player as well as giving the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate other players. At running back, in particular, Ezekiel Elliott not yet reporting for training camp provides an opportunity for rookies Tony Pollard and Mike Weber to get some reps with the first-team offense that they might not have gotten had Elliott been available.
Stephen Jones said he's “optimistic that things will work themselves out.” He also talked a little bit about the natural deadline that comes with the start of the regular season about six weeks away.
The Cowboys brass understands those hold outs and negotiating new contracts with players who are under contract is part of the nature of the business that is the NFL. Stephen Jones even talked about it in the same way he does player acquisition, that it's a year-round process.
From the sound of it, the Dallas Cowboys leadership doesn't plan on addressing contract situations in their daily press conferences during training camp. Over and over they reiterated that when they're working with a player under contract on an extension, there's really no timetable and the deals get done when they get done.
While it may seem like a dire situation to have Ezekiel Elliott missing the first part of training camp as he seeks a contract extension that will likely make him the richest running back in the NFL, the Cowboys front office isn't worried.
Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett each talked about what a great player Ezekiel Elliott is and Garrett especially talked about what a smart player he is. Garrett wasn't worried about Elliott missing time in training camp as it relates to picking up the offense because “he has a high football I.Q.” and “had a great offseason.”
At some point in the next month, Ezekiel Elliott is going to get his contract finalized and be out on the practice field with the Dallas Cowboys. More importantly, Elliott will be lined up in the backfield when the Dallas Cowboys take on the New York Giants week one of the regular season.
They're not alarmed, you shouldn't be either. When it matters, Elliott will be there.