Jason Garrett outlines plan for Ezekiel Elliott on Saturday

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Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t say that running back Ezekiel Elliott will definitely be playing against the Raiders in Saturday’s preseason game, but he did say that he’s leaning in that direction and outlined how much Elliott will play in the so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season.

Garrett said that the team has taken the mindset of getting Elliott ready to play Week One despite not knowing the result of Elliott’s appeal of the six-game suspension handed down by the league and said they’d do something similar to last year’s third preseason game. Elliott played 14 snaps and carried the ball seven times in that contest before heading back to the bench.

Garrett also noted that Elliott dealt with a hamstring injury in camp last year, so he has already taken more practice reps than he did last year and that the team probably wouldn’t have dealt with things any differently even if Elliott were free of suspension concerns.

“I think it’s a position that takes more pounding than maybe any other, if you think about what their job is,” Garrett said at his Thursday press conference. You hand them the ball 20 to 25 times in a game and they tackled 20 to 25 times in a game and they get hit probably twice as many more times. Those guys probably take the most physical beating among any player on the field, so you balance that, putting them at risk in that regard with getting them ready to play. Again, those guys, you can simulate a lot of what they are going to see in the game in practice. And if you practice the right way, which I believe we do, hopefully you get them closer to getting ready to play in a ballgame.”

Most of the rest of the backfield work will likely be handled by Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, who would be up for big roles early in the year if Elliott remains barred from playing after next week’s appeal.