Cowboys dealt setback by ruling, Dak to take on more with Zeke out
FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called the decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday a setback for Ezekiel Elliott, but he did not sound ready to end the fight to keep the running back on the field.
"We must all together look and see pragmatically what we're dealing with. And there is no question that the commissioner has the authority to make these suspensions," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday. "The question was ultimately going to be does he have to follow in practice a fair way, and Zeke and his team and the Cowboys do not think that it was done in a fair way. We are trying to get that looked at, and we got a setback yesterday."
The Cowboys will have to rely on quarterback Dak Prescott even more now to carry the team over their next six games.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court panel in New Orleans granted the NFL's emergency request to set aside an injunction and ordered a district court in Texas to dismiss Elliott's case.
The NFL announced that the suspension was effective immediately, although further appeals are possible, and the Cowboys are not playing this weekend. If Elliott does not take further legal action, he would not return to the field until Nov. 30.
"We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days,'' Elliott's attorney Frank Salzano said.
Jones would not get into what Elliott will do, but repeated his support for the running back.
"I'm very familiar with all of the facts and the details of this case. Very familiar," Jones said, adding, "Zeke did not get treated fairly here."
Jones has issues with the NFL's personal conduct policy that requires a lesser burden of proof than the law. Columbus, Ohio, authorities chose not to press charges against Elliott for incidents in July 2016 involving a former girlfriend because of inconsistent statements and evidence.
The league said it had persuasive evidence that Elliott committed violence against the girlfriend on three occasions when it announced the six-game suspension in August. Elliott's appeal was denied by arbitrator Harold Henderson.
Elliott's attorneys and the NFL Players Association said the appeals process lacked fundamental fairness in which Elliott was not allowed to question his accuser or Kia Roberts, the league's lead investigator who did not believe there should be discipline against Elliott.
The most likely destination for further legal challenges from players' union attorneys representing Elliott is with the Southern District of New York. The NFL filed in that federal court after Elliott's appeal through the league was denied by Henderson last month. A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Elliott's lawyers have the option of refiling in Dallas or fighting the suspension in New York, a decision they are discussing now.
"This process we have in the NFL has the same equivalence when you are suspended," Jones told the team's flagship network. "Even though it's done away from the law, it looks like you've done something, and that to me is incumbent upon the NFL to basically follow some more fair procedures if it's going to look like you did something whether you did or not. The law does provide us the outline with precedent on how to do it. Our system in the NFL does not."
If Elliott is suspended, Jones said the Cowboys are in good shape with Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith.
"We've got really real good alternatives. Is it better to have Zeke? Yes. But we've got an alternative," Jones said. "...
By keeping Morris and McFadden, we've got two outstanding, veteran backs. That's the way that I look at it. That's the way we'll have to go with it. It is obvious that football itself says that that if you don't make plans for the unexpected or if you don't make plans for the reversal, then you don't understand that game because you're going to get it as surely as you say the word, as sure as you put your foot on the field, things are not going to go like you want them to every time. And so we're ready if in fact Zeke can't play."