Ezekiel Elliott did not want to dwell on “what if?” when it came to the Dallas Cowboys’ season.
As in, what if he hadn’t missed six games because of a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy?
“The fact of the matter is it doesn’t matter,” Elliott said. “What’s the point of going what if? It already happened. You’ve got to look forward and control what you can control cheap jerseys and make sure you come back ready next year contending and make it to the playoffs.”
The Cowboys went 3-3 in Elliott’s absence, stemming from alleged incidents involving a former girlfriend in Columbus, Ohio. Authorities did not press charges against Elliott because of inconsistent evidence, but the league felt there was persuasive evidence to determine that he violated the personal conduct policy after an investigation that lasted more than a year.
Elliott fought the NFL’s suspension through the legal system for months and was able to play in the first eight games, with the Cowboys posting a 5-3 record. After losing a round in the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Elliott dropped his case entirely.
Elliott said he is at peace with how things played out.
He spent most of his six weeks off working out in Cabo. Elliott finished 17 yards short of posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons because of his six-game suspension, with 103 yards on 27 carries against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
He finished the season with 242 carries for 983 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He also caught 26 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m actually sad the season’s over,” Elliott said. “I wish it would’ve ended differently. I wish we were playing in the playoffs right now. But I’m happy to have everything behind me. I’m happy to move forward. I’m going to use it as fuel for next year.”
It makes sense he would be, considering he was forced to sit six games by the NFL only to be followed by a return to football that saw the Dallas Cowboys abandon him on the field at the most inopportune times. Both truths led to the team finally being eliminated from playoff contention, which lends to the belief the Cowboys will sit their starters as both a means of preventing possible longterm injury — as well as utilizing the chance to evaluate talent deeper down the roster.
Well, good luck with that.
Head coach Jason Garrett shot that idea down without blinking this week, and that’s just fine by Elliott. The All-Pro wants to suit up against the Philadelphia Eagles, mainly because his ribs are still touching.
“I only played nine games this season, I’m itching to play football,” Elliott said after Wednesday’s practice, via The Dallas Morning News. “I don’t care if we’re playing for nothing, I’m playing for something. I’m playing for myself, we’re playing for each other, and so I’m excited to go out and play Sunday.
“I’m not going to have any problem waking up Sunday morning getting ready to play. You don’t have to worry about that from me or from anyone on this team.”
Assuming the current gameplan sticks and Elliott does take handoffs, he’ll be in position to break the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his first two NFL seasons. That’s quite the feat considering the aforementioned suspension that cost him 38% of the regular season and the fact he has a career-low game of eight yards on the 2017 resume.
It’s a true nod to just how dominant his bounce back from that outing was, and although Elliott isn’t focused on passing the marker, he’s not exactly going to ignore it either.
“The main goal is to go win a football game,” Elliott said, via The Dallas Morning News. “If [1,000 yards] happens, it happens. It’s not like you can go out there and force that, but it definitely would be nice.”
Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks was more-or-less a microcosm of the team’s offense in 2017 in having the talent and ability to score seemingly at will, but obliterating their own drives with both mistakes and questionable play-calling. On three consecutive occasions without Elliott, the Cowboys failed to score at least 10 points for the first time in franchise history.
In his return, the team didn’t utilize him fully (see the now-infamous first-and-goal situation) and it led to the team becoming one-dimensional by way of the passing game, which coughed up three turnovers en route to the Cowboys scoring only 12 points.
“Normally, in the past, we’ve been pretty good in those crucial situations,” Elliott said of the first-and-goal versus the Seahawks where the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown, via The Dallas Morning News.
“That’s probably the first time where we kind of laid an egg, so that’s kind of a new experience. We’ve just got to learn from it, get better and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it wasn’t the only egg laid this season. The hen house will now head to Philadelphia hoping to finish the season with some semblance of pride before heading into an offseason filled with question marks.
For now though, they’re simply focused on the Eagles.