When the Dallas Cowboys take the field to kick off their regular season on Sept. 8 against the New York Giants, the expectation is that Ezekiel Elliott will not play. The All-Pro running back is in the midst of a lengthy contract dispute with the Cowboys, one that has held him out for training camp and the preseason.
But as it turns out, Dallas owner Jerry Jones thinks that Elliott’s time away from the team could extend beyond one week of the regular season. Following the team’s 17-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to conclude its regular season, Jones made it clear that it’s unclear when we’ll see Elliott on the field.
“I’m operating as though right now he’s going to miss regular-season games,” Jones said, per Todd Archer of ESPN. “My entire expectation for what we’re putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out and not having any training camp that he’s going to miss games. I just accept that.”
Jones stressed that Elliott is crucial to their success this season, saying that “we’re a better team with Zeke,” and there the Cowboys don’t have a hard and fast deadline to get a deal done.
“We’ll be needing Zeke,” Jones said. “Anytime we can get him out there, we’ll be needing him, so we don’t have deadlines here.”
The issue, per Archer, is that it does not appear that a deal between the two sides is imminent, even though there have been discussions in recent days. Dallas had previously offered to make Elliott, who has led the league in rushing yards twice during his three-year career, the second-highest paid back in the game behind Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams, and reports have indicated that he is prepared to sit out the season if he does not get a new contract.