He’s clearly committed to the fight, but here’s why Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott should serve his suspension now.
The process that led the NFL to give Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott a six-game suspension was flawed and the ongoing legal back-and-forth is hard to keep up with, especially in terms of the dates things will occur. But Elliott has remained able to play and will be for at least one more game in Week 8, with a hearing on his injunction happening next Monday, Oct. 30.
We’ve seen this kind of battle over a suspension before, as Tom Brady fought the league in court before ultimately serving a four-game “Deflategate” suspension to start the 2016 season. Brady’s absence did not derail a run to another Super Bowl title for the Patriots and he was probably in better physical condition for a deep playoff run after an early season break.
The Cowboys easily dispatched the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, led by Elliott’s career-high 219 yards from scrimmage. They are now 3-3 on the season, but it’s a good sign not to have fallen into a trap game on the road against a winless team. With playoff contention still in play, Elliott should give up his legal fight against the league and take his suspension as Brady did.
Dallas’ next six matchups include games against rival Washington Redskins on each end, with three home games (Chiefs, Eagles and Chargers) and a road game against the Atlanta Falcons (Week 10) in between. That is not an easy stretch and there’s a wide range of possible outcomes for the Cowboys. A six-game winning streak (technically seven, at that point) is not likely, but a 3-3 or 4-2 mark would maintain playoff contention heading into December.
Alfred Morris is a capable running back, with three 1,000-yard seasons on his resume. Darren McFadden had one of the best seasons of his career as the No. 1 running back for Dallas in 2015 (1,089 rushing yards, 40 receptions) and the Cowboys seem to be saving him for if or when Elliott has to serve his suspension as McFadden has been listed as healthy inactive each week thus far. While neither guy is as talented as Elliott, the Cowboys’ running game can function with Morris and McFadden.
Sunday aside, it’s easy to assume the looming suspension and ongoing fight with the NFL has weighed on Elliott and affected his performance on the field. There’s a precedent for it to be a fruitless legal fight too, given what happened with the less serious allegation Brady faced.
So rather than let the situation possibly linger into 2018, Elliott should take his suspension medicine now and be ready with fresher legs at the most important time of the season for the Cowboys.