The NFL has suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games, the long-awaited ruling on an investigation into domestic violence allegations that has lasted for over a year.
The domestic violence accusations came from a former girlfriend of Elliott’s who has twice claimed that Zeke physically abused her. The credibility of the accuser has been in question, though, from evidence that she was lying and asking friends to do the same. Elliott has explained that the woman is bitter over their relationship and trying to hurt him in the public eye.
Even if the domestic issue was entirely false, Zeke’s had some other problems and hits to his reputation. He was seen at a marijuana dispensary in Seattle during the 2016 preseason, which isn’t illegal in the state of Washington but still a bad look given the league’s policy on cannabis.
Last March, Zeke was caught on camera briefly lifting a female friend’s shirt up during a St. Patrick’s Day parade. It quickly became clear that this was in keeping with their relationship, but still poor judgment in Elliott’s part given the ongoing domestic violence investigation.
Elliott also received a speeding ticket for going 100 mph on a 70 mph highway in April. In July, he was at a nightclub where a fight occurred and police were called in. It was initially rumored that he’d been involved in the altercation, but that was never confirmed or charged officially.
The wait for the NFL’s initial ruling is over, but the fight may have only just begun for Zeke and the league. He does have the right to appeal the suspension, the process for which was outlined by sports attorney Daniel Wallach on Twitter:
Elliott must file his appeal within 3 business days, and #NFL would then have 10 days to conduct a hearing. https://t.co/SU7ecnLnlC
The idea has been out there that Elliott and the Cowboys might use the appeal process strategically. Zeke’s suspension is not enforced while under appeal, meaning he can keep playing until it’s over. Even if they don’t believe the suspension would be reduced, keeping Elliott available for the season opener against the New York Giants makes a lot of sense.
Based on the timeline provided by Wallach, the NFL’s internal appeal process would be done by August 29th or 30th (depending on if today counts as one of the three days to file appeal). The Giants will be here on September 10th. Obviously, that doesn’t work.
However, Elliott could then seek an injunction against the NFL and take his fight to the courts. The effect would be the same; Zeke could keep playing while the process plays out through the legal system. As we saw with Tom Brady, that could potentially delay things for an entire year.
There is always the potential, though, that Zeke doesn’t want to go through all of this and will just accept the suspension. If so, Dallas will likely be looking to Darren McFadden as they did in 2015. Even with Tony Romo out of the year and no real passing threat from Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, or Kellen Moore, McFadden still had over 1,000 yards on the ground and 300 receiving. With Dak Prescott under center, McFadden could conceivably do even more.
That said, McFadden was 28 then and turns 30 in a few weeks. That’s a long time in RB years. Thankfully, the Cowboys still have Alfred Morris and the emerging Rod Smith to help lighten the load. We may see more of a rotation during Zeke’s absence than we’re used to from recent seasons.
What the Cowboys do next depends on Ezekiel Elliott. Will he appeal? How far will he take that fight? I hate to say it after all this time, but we’re still in wait-and-see mode.