Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott needs this wake-up call suspension from NFL to save career,
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes details Ezekiel Elliot’s six-game suspension, as well as what an appeal could look like and how this impacts the Cowboys on the field. USA TODAY Sports
Maybe the six-game suspension for Ezekiel Elliott – and the statement the damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t NFL needed to make against domestic violence – will be a much-needed wakeup call.
Even with the vast gray area attached to the case, including Tiffany Thompson lying to police about getting yanked out of a car by Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys star has been seemingly living on the edge.
No, Elliott has never been arrested or charged in any of the incidents where his name has popped up.
But the multiple incidents that prompted the NFL’s 13-month investigation, in addition to another episode in Florida in 2016, on top of allegations that he broke a man’s nose during a melee in a Dallas nightclub and also the foolish decision to pull down a woman’s top in public – while under NFL investigation, mind you – cost Elliott enormous benefit of the doubt.
“I admit that I am far from perfect,” Elliott said in a tweet on Friday, “but I plan to continue to work very hard, on and off the field, to mature and earn the right opportunity that I have been given.”
Dude, grow up fast … before your potentially amazing career is over.
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Elliott, 22, is hardly the first young, rich and famous football player to hang out on the wild side. But that’s no excuse for crossing the line marked by domestic violence, even when this case is complicated by an apparent threat from Thompson, his former girlfriend, to “ruin” his career.
Surely, there are bones to pick with the NFL’s process in this matter, which can be flushed out during Elliott’s appeal. As well-intentioned as the league’s domestic violence policy may be, players can be targets, too, because of the very get-tough policy the league was compelled to institute in the wake of the Ray Rice fiasco.
Elliott’s representatives allege that the NFL “cherry picked” some evidence while ignoring other key evidence. Considering some other cases in recent years – including Deflategate and Bountygate – the NFL is not above question when it comes to process, motivation and conclusions.
Still, something apparently happened, as the league concluded, between Elliott and Thompson, that left the league little choice beyond the six-game suspension.
Six games compared with the one-game ban that former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown – who admitted abusing his wife — received last year? The NFL certainly looked silly in weighing “extenuating circumstances” for Brown, who has since not found a job in the league.
But just because they blew it with Brown doesn’t mean they should not have stuck with the six games they contended would be the minimum suspension when the policy was crafted in 2014. Perhaps it will be reduced on appeal, but at the moment six games represents the teeth needed to uphold the credibility in the policy that was missing in the Brown case.
Even if Elliott’s ban is reduced, another condition in his suspension is worth noting: No more incidents.
Elliott, the reigning NFL rushing champ, needs to deal with the reality of that condition. For all the talent and charming persona wrapped in his youthful energy, it would be a shame for him to squander his potential.
Emmitt Smith, the Hall of Famer and all-time rushing champ, put it out there when addressing Elliott’s case on The Rich Eisen Show.
“This is a time to reflect and ask fundamental questions of one’s self,” Smith told Eisen. “Do I want a real long career in this National Football League, which I can have? Or do I just want to play it year by year and just live for the now? This is about his future.”
Smith issued his message as such for a reason, and the Cowboys – as coach Jason Garrett has acknowledged – realize that Elliott has to seriously address his decision-making. Smith publicly offered to not only be a sounding board for Elliott, but also an “accountability partner” willing to help the young player devise a plan for dealing with this crisis.
Elliott should take up Smith on his offer.
In the meantime, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should operate on that track, too – even while it’s apparent he’s taken aback by the length of the suspension.
Maybe Jones is moved to fight the NFL. He’s demonstrated over the years – including his game-changing stances in the 1990s on TV negotiations and the Pepsi marketing case – just how resolved can be when digging in over principles.
But I doubt that he can win when the case is involving domestic violence. So there’s a teaching moment in this for Jones, too. By declaring in recent weeks that he didn’t believe there was enough evidence to warrant a suspension for Elliott, Jones showed a lack of respect for the league’s investigative process.
Giving Jones the benefit of the doubt, maybe that was merely wishful thinking rather than a deliberate attempt to influence the case or public opinion. Regardless, Jones has egg on his face now.
Obviously, Jones doesn’t want to lose Elliott for six games or even four games.
Yet maybe his best use of energy now will be to help Elliott succeed in the long run – on and off the field.
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