Ezekiel Elliott is still suspended for six games. Just not for this upcoming game against the Giants.
NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the league’s punishment against the Cowboys running back on Tuesday evening, denying his appeal of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s discipline that was announced last month. Because of the timing of Henderson’s decision, the league conceded that it would be unfair to have Elliott begin serving the suspension this week.
Elliott, therefore, will serve his suspension in Weeks 2 through 7.
The NFLPA filed a petition to void the suspension last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, along with a request for a temporary restraining order on Henderson’s decision (which preceded Henderson’s actual decision). U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III heard arguments on those motions on Tuesday evening and will rule by Friday evening.
If the ruling is in favor of Elliott, he may wind up playing the entire season before the litigation is complete. If the judge rules in favor of the NFL, Elliott will begin serving the suspension in Week 2.
Henderson’s ruling came to light late in the proceedings in the Texas courtroom. Elliott’s attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, told the judge near the end of a more than two-hour hearing that Elliott’s suspension was sustained.
Elliott’s attorneys said they were “extremely disappointed with Mr. Henderson’s inability to navigate through league politics, and follow the evidence.”
At the start of the hearing, NFL attorney Daniel Nash said Elliott could play Sunday night against the Giants because Henderson’s ruling came too late in the day for it to be enforced this weekend.
Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie in 2016, is facing the suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy based on domestic violence allegations from more than a year ago. He was never charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.
The running back has been practicing with the Cowboys this week, and was with them on Tuesday before heading to court.
“I think Zeke has done an excellent job focusing on what he needs to do to get himself ready to play,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday.
The Giants had been preparing for their game against Dallas without knowing whether Elliott would be eligible to play. Players and coaches said on Monday that they would not alter their approach or plans based on Elliott’s presence on the field.
At least one Giants player was actually rooting for Elliott to be eligible for the game.
“I’m hoping that his appeal goes through,” All-Pro safety Landon Collins said. “He’s a great player, an exciting player, and I love to play against the best players.”