Jerry Jones said the league is investigating Ezekiel Elliott‘s pattern of behavior rather than domestic violence allegations as it weighs whether to suspend the star running back. The Cowboys owner expects to have Elliott on the field for opening night.
“There are a couple of issues that might or might not fall — and that’s going to be up to the league to the decide — under the behavioral guidelines,” Jones told Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth during NBC’s coverage of the Hall of Fame Game. “But in my opinion, we’re preparing our team for Zeke and should.”
The NFL has never closed its investigation into domestic abuse allegations made against Elliott by an ex-girlfriend more than a year ago. Jones has maintained all along that evidence shows Elliott was innocent of an incident that led to no arrest or charges against Elliott.
But Elliott, 22, has made other unsavory headlines, including visiting a marijuana dispensary during a preseason trip to Seattle last season; exposing a woman’s breast during a St. Patrick’s Day festivity this offseason; and being involved in an altercation at a Dallas bar days before camp.
The idea that the league is investigating a pattern of behavior rather than the domestic violence allegations is a new one.
“The domestic violence is not an issue,” Jones said. “Zeke has had some other things that have been looked at and are being looked at. But from the domestic violence issue, there’s not an issue. I think that my hope is that Zeke is with us opening night, and I don’t want to get into anything that might in any way influence negatively that decision from the league office.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and a four-person independent panel participated in a hearing with Elliott last month, according to a Michele Tafoya report during the game. The four-person panel will make a recommendation to Goodell, who eventually will decide whether to suspend Elliott.
Jones, who said last week a decision on Elliott was “imminent,” repeated that declaration Thursday night. A decision is not expected this week as Jones celebrates his Hall of Fame induction, with his party on Friday night and the enshrinement on Saturday night.
“I hope — really hope — that it be immediately,” Jones said. “I think that we will see that imminently.”
Elliott will learn from his mistakes, Jones said, although the owner obviously the learning experience doesn’t come at a cost to the Cowboys.
“I know first hand what it’s like for Zeke to go out in public,” Jones said. “It’s like a rock star. It’s almost uncontrollable, and so that’s a challenge. That would be a challenge for anyone. He’s got to learn to basically meet that challenge. It’s been my experience that when players have that type of attention, create that type of dynamic, they learn. They’ll hit that hot stove two or three times, but then they’ll quit touching. Hopefully, and I think that’s been the case. Zeke is exceptionally intelligent. He’s obviously a great player, and I can’t emphasize enough how hard he works. There’s nobody who works harder than he does, and is more professional about how he gets ready to play a game.”