By rule, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has 14 days to file a petition for rehearing in the case that has triggered the eventual dismissal of his Texas lawsuit. Which means that the Texas case isn’t over. Which isn’t stopping the NFL from treating it that way.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said during a Friday media briefing that the league regards its immediate suspension of Elliott and his remaining federal appeal rights in the Texas case as an “apples-and-oranges” proposition. Lockhart justified the characterization by saying the the courts have their rules and procedures, and the league has its rules and procedures.
This virtually guarantees an immediate effort by Elliott and the NFL Players Association to seek an order blocking the suspension until the 14-day window for filing a petition for rehearing of the case, either before the original panel or before the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The mere fact that Elliott has 14 days to decide on his next course of action means that Thursday’s decision doesn’t become effective for two weeks. Which means that Elliott should be able to secure easily and quickly a ruling that will allow him to play until the 14-day window has expired, at a minimum. (This would mean he’ll play in Week Seven against the 49ers. For Week Six, the Cowboys have a bye.)
The NFL’s position has another potential impact on the broader litigation. If the court believes that the NFL is being heavy-handed and/or disrespectful in its insistence to proceed prematurely with the suspension, that could cloud the ultimate assessment of the case, if there are further proceedings. While it may be impossible to ever draw a straight or even dotted line from the league’s aggressive stance on the commencement of the suspension to whatever decisions may come, lawyers (at least the smart ones, which leaves me out) know when to tread lightly in order to avoid alienating the folks who exclusively wear Johnny Cash’s color of choice.