Two weeks ago today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said a decision in the Ezekiel Elliott case is imminent. Either that word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means, or something has changed.
Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the a league spokesman said Thursday that there’s “no update” in the Elliott case.
Ordinarily, the lack of news isn’t news. But with so many quotes coming from folks like Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones regarding the slow pace of the investigation, and with Hall of Famer Cris Carter’s non-report report from Monday that a decision is coming in 48 hours, it’s noteworthy that, from the league’s perspective, nothing seems to be going on.
The clock continues to tick loudly, if the goal remains giving Elliott a fair chance to appeal the decision before Week One.
Here’s one potential explanation for the delay, which is complete and total speculation and not the result of any leak or tip or anything else and I’m not winking while I type this: If the Joneses have accepted the reality that a suspension is coming (given the league’s judge/jury/executioner/appeals court power over the Personal Conduct Policy), behind-the-scenes negotiations could be happening in order to allow the suspension to become effective at the time of the team’s choosing.
With season-opening games against the Giants and Broncos, and given that the Cowboys have a work-in-progress offensive line and a left tackle with a suddenly balky back, Jerry Jones naturally would be inclined to try to bargain with the league office for a timeline that has Elliott suspended later than sooner. With Giants, at Broncos, at Cardinals, Rams, and Packers over the first five weeks and a Week Six bye, what if the suspension were to commence in Week Seven, when the Cowboys have at 49ers, at Washington, Chiefs, and at Falcons on the docket?
While no suspension would be ideal for the Cowboys, a suspension coming after the team has had a chance to get the offensive line properly up to snuff and an opportunity to figure out how opponents will be defending against quarterback Dak Prescott will make it easier for the Cowboys to get through two, three, or four games without Elliott.
Of course, any such deal would be highly irregular, but let’s be realistic. With the league caught between placating Jones (who may react to a suspension that commences as of Week One in a very aggressive and unkind way) and advancing the P.R. interests that drive the in-house system of justice, the best solution would be a negotiated one.
Regardless of whether anything (or nothing) is going on, this case already has fallen into the “highly irregular” category. It feels like plenty more “irregular” will be happening until things become regular again.