It’s been nearly a year since Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott first faced accusations of domestic violence. Amid reports that Elliott and the NFL Players Association finally delivered to the league phone records and other documents to comply with a “longstanding request,” what’s next?
There are three possible next steps.
First, the investigation could continue. Specifically, the contents of the information provided by Elliott to the league could spark new questions for Elliott or the alleged victim aimed at resolving ambiguities or possible inconsistencies. With no internal deadline for getting things done, the questions could linger — and the process could hover over the 2017 season, like it hovered over the 2016 season.
Second, the NFL could conclude that Elliott violated the Personal Conduct Policy and impose discipline. Elliott would have appeal rights, and the league would try to get everything resolved before Week One. Litigation aimed at blocking an eventual suspension also would be possible, which could allow Elliott to delay or ultimately defeat the punishment through the court system.
Third, the investigation could end with an announcement or a leak to the media (possibly media owned by the league) that Elliott has been cleared. The news would potentially emerge on a Friday afternoon between now and Labor Day, with the goal of minimizing the questions that would arise from whatever information the NFL chooses to provide in support of its final decision.
For now, the signs point to the third option. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has made abundantly clear his belief that the situation is a non-issue, and it’s possible (if not likely) that the more-powerful-than-ever new Hall of Famer would react to a suspension of Elliott with far more hostility and aggression than others have, or would.