Thirteen months of NFL investigation into Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott have boiled down to three days of much of the same finger-pointing, accusations of procedural wrongdoing, and protection of public perception as Elliott began his appeal of the six game suspension issued on August 11th Tuesday.
Presenting his case to arbitrator Harold Henderson from an undisclosed New York location, the belief from the start of Elliott's appeal would be that some new information would need to be presented from his team for the suspension to be reversed or reduced. After over 25 hours of deliberation, not only has Elliott been able to do just this with the recently hired Jeffrey Kessler on his side (a lawyer that the NFL knows all too well), but plenty of new substantial details have surfaced on the league's poor handling of their initial investigation.
NFLPA alleging a "league-orchestrated conspiracy..to hide critical information which would completely exonerate Elliott" https://t.co/WUn9hK94g2
Henderson of course still represents the league and has been known to still rule in their favor despite a record of reducing some significant suspensions, but pressure that he reportedly now faces to make a decision will only expedite the airing of any final accusations on both sides over the coming days.
Ezekiel Elliott has another card left to play, as anything but a complete reversal of his six game suspension will likely lead to his case against the NFL reaching the courts. For the NFL, this appeal was their last chance to contain any wrongdoing they'll be forced to admit to and come to the correct decision on Elliott.
Although this is not solely a suspension handed down for domestic violence, Elliott's involvement with Tiffany Thompson remains the most important event, and an incident like the ones that led to Thompson's bruises (used as forensic evidence in the league's investigation) can only lead to a black and white ruling - whoever caused this harm to Thompson deserves legal consequence, and that person is either Ezekiel Elliott or not.
People within the NFL believe it was very likely not Ezekiel Elliott that abused Thompson.
In #Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott's appeal, they had a current NFL employee in Kia Roberts testify against the NFL. I mean... wow.
We've known that Elliott himself, the Columbus District Attorney, Jerry Jones, and many others believe Zeke is entirely innocent based on the evidence that has been made public thus far. What became known yesterday - a stunning addition to the above list - is much more volatile for the NFL.
Kia Roberts is the NFL's director of investigations, and has testified to Henderson that she recommended no suspension for Ezekiel Elliott following Roberts' interview with Thompson. Roberts' contributions to the case never saw the light of day, as it was ultimately Roger Goodell's power under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that spurred Elliott's suspension.
NFLPA filing calls for the court in Eastern Texas to vacate any suspension of Ezekiel Elliott based on the process issues. https://t.co/g9YRPaUXrT
From the start, the NFLPA has also been defending Ezekiel Elliott stronger then they have publicly for any player in recent memory. Late last night the news broke that they are pursuing a conspiracy case against the league in their orchestration of hiding key evidence that would exonerate Elliott.
It is unclear at this time what this most recent news means for the immediate results of Elliott's appeal, or how the NFLPA is expecting Henderson to rule.
Elliott was never arrested or charged by police after an investigation into Tiffany Thompson’s accusations. Not only that, but Thompson’s credibility has been ripped to shreds from more than one angle. Zeke even filed a harassment claim against her last year for repeated phone calls and messages, including threats to blackmail him.
This quote comes from Inside The Star Staff Writer Jess Haynie's deeper look at the NFL's handling of domestic violence as it pertains to the precedent they've tried to set - or not - with a young star of the game in Ezekiel Elliott. The fact that Elliott was never arrested or charged continues to loom incredibly large.
Roger Goodell never spoke to Thompson himself through the investigation, and Harold Henderson barred her testimony from Elliott's appeal. Instead, he has ended up with something much more poignant - further proof of Thompson's inability to be trustworthy, the league's ability to fairly investigate one of their players, and potentially even additional direct evidence of Elliott's innocence towards Thompson.
The Cowboys are all set to play the New York Giants to kickoff the regular season in nine days. As of this moment, they would still be playing without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield. One way or another, Harold Henderson is going to have to make an incredibly tough decision very soon to cement Elliott's week one status - and more importantly his next step.
An Ezekiel Elliott that's strapping on his helmet and carrying the rock for America's Team on Sunday Night Football may be the best case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys, but it could be far from that for the NFL regardless of Elliott's intention to take this case to court following the announcement of these appeal results.
To think how incredibly close we may be to saying, "remember that time..." when it comes to Ezekiel Elliott being suspended for the first six games of the 2017 season which is upon us. We also may be just as close to collectively remembering where we were as Cowboys Nation when a second-year running back brought the NFL to court and created change in one of the most powerful businesses going right now.
Cowboys & DeMarcus Lawrence Fail to Reach New Contract
DeMarcus Lawrence will definitely be a Cowboy in 2018, but now the future beyond that remains in question. The Dallas Cowboys and their star defensive end did not agree to a long-term contract by today's deadline for franchise-tagged players.
According to NFL rules, teams had until 4:00 pm EST today to reach contract extensions with free agents who'd been assigned the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Players who did not get new deals will have to play the 2018 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys were unable to work out a long-term contract by today's deadline. Lawrence will play the 2018 season under a one-year franchise tag that will pay him $17.1 million
This does not mean Lawrence will be a free agent in 2019. The two parties can still discuss the contract in the months to come, but the deal cannot be made until after the end of the regular season.
Dallas also has the option of giving DeMarcus a second franchise tag next year. However, that would come at a considerably higher price for a second-straight season.
This year, Lawrence will still make plenty with one of the highest cap hits of any DE in the league. He earned the franchise tag last with 14.5 sacks in a breakout season.
Today's news may not really be a big deal in the long run. As long as Tank wants to stay in Dallas after this, the two sides now have over five months to keep talking and will hopefully agree on a new deal for 2019 and beyond.
There is risk on both sides, of course.
Lawrence's leverage could be less if his productions drops or he gets injured. On the other hand, his position could be even stronger with a second-straight year of strong play.
Now everyone, from the team to player to fans, is in wait-and-see mode until the end of the season.
Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Do Enough to Make the Roster?
The Dallas Cowboys aren't short on numbers at wide receiver on their current 90-man roster. Looking to replace Dez Bryant and reshape their offense, the Cowboys will have to find the right group of pass catchers for Dak Prescott at their upcoming training camp.
The odd men out from this group will likely be the ones that can't sustain a consistent level of play, doing so across multiple units if needed. All ten receivers will have their flashes, but with only four being true locks to make the team, new Cowboys Wide Receivers Coach Sanjay Lal will be in on some tough decisions right away.
One such decision may be moving on from last year's seventh round pick Noah Brown out of Ohio State. Vouched for by former Buckeyes teammate Ezekiel Elliott thanks to his blocking ability on the outside, it may now be this strength in the run game and deficiency as a pass catcher that spells the end of Brown's run in Dallas.
Normally, a seventh round pick being on the roster bubble wouldn't be this noteworthy, but Brown clearly showed the potential to outplay this draft status as a rookie. Appearing in 13 games, Brown is a true X receiver, although not the dominant one the Cowboys are searching for.
Moving away from fielding a true number one receiver, the Cowboys did sign Allen Hurns to play this spot while prepared to spread the ball around to Williams, Beasley, and Gallup after that.
This leaves Thompson, Wilson, Cannon, Lenoir, McCay, Murdock, and Brown to prove their worth in other ways to make the roster. I've written plenty about the potential rookie Cedrick Wilson has, so I'll be expecting a strong showing from him to earn a role in the Cowboys offense.
Wilson's skill set could push a depth signing like Deonte Thompson off the team, although his ability to back up Cole Beasley/Tavon Austin on special teams is important. The same can be said about Lance Lenoir, who like Brown has the advantage over first year players given his trials through training camp and the preseason a year ago.
Long shots to make the team, Cannon, McCay, and Murdock fall just below this group -- and somewhere in the middle is Noah Brown.
Increasing his role on special teams as the season went on last year, Brown had fans throughout a coaching staff that is now drastically changed for 2018. From their shift to more speed on offense, to drafting of both Gallup and Wilson, calling Brown a fringe player on the Cowboys roster really sets up the fiery competition to come at wide receiver.
Should the Cowboys find a spot for Brown, one can only hope it means this new coaching staff has a clear plan for him to contribute on both offense and special teams outside of being a run blocker. A potential niche for Brown is his red zone ability, not afraid to put his body on the line for jump balls and fight through contact in his routes.
It won't be long until we sort out if this is enough to make the Cowboys as a wide receiver ahead of Quarterback Dak Prescott's third season.
Cowboys CB Marquez White Facing Assault Charges
Player news this time of year is often not the good kind, and such is true of a new development with Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White. The second-year CB is facing aggravated assault charges for an incident last October.
According to the report, White displayed a legally owned firearm during a "road rage" incident.
Marquez, a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys last season, has made his side of the story public. The following account was released by White to The Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper:
Naturally, we're in a wait-and-see situation as to how this case unfolds and impacts White's availability to the Cowboys in 2018. He is one of several players hoping to catch on at the bottom of the CB depth chart, having spent his rookie season on the practice squad.
This latest legal issue is especially unwelcome news after other Cowboys' recent problems. The team has seen David Irving get suspended four games for illegal substances and Terrance Williams' get arrested for public intoxication in the last two months.
Last year, Linebacker Damien Wilson was charged for aggravated assault in a somewhat similar situation to that of Marquez White. Those charges were eventually dropped.
What happens in White's case remains to be seen.
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