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Cowboys News: Elliott's reps accuse NFL of “cherry-picking” evidence

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Latest Cowboys headlines: What's next for Elliott? How will Jerry Jones react? What are the legal options?

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NFL: NFL Meetings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ezekiel Elliott's representatives blast NFL: 'factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions' - SportsDay
Ezekiel Elliott's representatives released a statement Friday after the NFL announced a six-game suspension for the Dallas Cowboys running back. The statement suggests this thing is far from over, here's the full text:

Ezekiel Elliott 'strongly disagrees' with suspension, admits he's 'far from perfect' - Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com
On Friday evening, Elliott released a statement through social media:

"I am both surprised and disappointed by the NFL's decision today, and I strongly disagree with the league's findings. I recognize the distraction and disruption that all of this has caused my family, friends, teammates, the Dallas Cowboys organization as well as my fans -- for that I am sincerely sorry. I admit that I am far from perfect, but I plan to continue to work very hard, on and off the field, to mature and earn the great opportunity that I have been given."

How the NFL justified Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, and what comes next - Kevin Seifert, ESPN
Seifert reviews the process that led to Elliott's suspension and looks at what happens next.

Can Elliott appeal this decision?

Absolutely. He has three business days to file it, and the appeal will be heard either by Goodell or by a designated representative. As ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, retired NFL executive Harold Henderson has often filled this role. The arbitrator, be it Goodell, Henderson or someone else, is obligated to provide a ruling within 10 days.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is arguably the most powerful man in the NFL. Will he do anything about this?

You never know. Jones said last month that he had seen no evidence of domestic violence in the incidents described. He might find sympathy from some other powerful owners, notably the Patriots' Robert Kraft, who have also vehemently disagreed with NFL discipline in recent years. Kraft and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson (Bountygate) can make room for him at their table of protest.

What will Jerry Jones do in response to Ezekiel Elliott suspension? – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Florio asks the big question, but doesn't provide any answers.

Jerry Jones reportedly 'considering all options' in wake of Ezekiel Elliott suspension - Grey Papke, Larry Brown Sports
Neither does this site, except to point out that there could be a “legal fight.”

What's next for Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott after six-game suspension? - A.J. Perez, USA Today
This article spells out some of the legal options Elliott has - outside of the NFL's process.

"Like Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, the next choice if Elliott doesn't prevail is to seek judicial review," David S. Weinstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney and current partner at the firm Clarke Silverglate, told USA TODAY Sports.

"Elliott's lawyers would like to get the case filed in Dallas federal court, but they'd be hard pressed since the league is based in New York."

Weinstein said Elliott's legal team could file for preliminary injunction if the appeal is upheld and would likely cite irreparable harm, including the six lost paychecks and potential bonus money. The filing would spell out how the NFL erred with its decision since Commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority and broad discretion to suspend players under the collective bargaining agreement, a power the federal courts have upheld.

Goodell suspended Brady for four games in May 2015 for allegedly conspiring to underinflate footballs in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. After the ban was upheld on appeal, Brady and NFLPA lawyers sought an injunction and then won a ruling on the U.S. District Court level that allowed Brady to play the entire 2015 season. An appeals court, however, overturned the ruling in April 2016, and Brady sat out the first four games of the 2016 season.

Peterson was suspended over allegations of child abuse in 2014 and went to court after Henderson denied his appeal. A federal judge in Minnesota overturned Henderson’s decision, and Peterson was reinstated by the NFL before the federal appeals process played out.

Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension and the Bureaucratic Nightmare of the NFL - Bryan Curtis, The Ringer
Curtis offers five thoughts in the aftermath of the Elliott suspension, including this on on how the NFL disseminates information:

5. The NFL is as leaky as the Trump administration.

One of the weirder stories of the Elliott case is how it dribbled into the media. On Monday, FS1’s Cris Carter said that he’d heard Elliott would be suspended because the league had determined that “something happened” in the five-day stretch of 2016. Goodell issued a non-denial denial, but the thrust of Carter’s report turned out to be true.

As The Big Lead noted, it’s eerily similar to when Stephen A. Smith broke the news about Tom Brady destroying his cellphone two years ago. How does the league, which makes such decisions within a tiny group of executives, allow such news to leak? How does it allow such news to leak to Smith and Carter? Such leaks by themselves don’t mean that the NFL is incapable of handing out suspensions. But it’s worth remembering: These are the guys that are making the decisions.

The NFL Is Still Just Making It Up As It Goes Along - Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin
Moskovitz explains that the Ezekiel Elliott decision is not about justice and not about making a stand against domestic violence, but simply a calculated ploy to make the NFL look good.

Sometimes, there aren’t any good answers. Today, NFL officials announced that they had decided to suspend a player accused of domestic violence for six games: The same penalty they promised years ago, and then went about ignoring as they saw fit. This seemed to make people quite happy, which was all the people who run the NFL ever care about. They want to keep fans happy so they’ll keep spending, and such subsidiary aims as keeping the football press happy, or at least impressed with their strength, mainly serve to further that principal aim.

But the six-game suspension doesn’t address why the NFL was able to throw the book at Ezekiel Elliott, at least unless it gets reduced on appeal: They had a highly cooperative witness, which seemed to matter more than in previous cases when they held piles of evidence and still doled out measly suspensions. Is what happened to Tiffany Thompson six times worse than what happened to Molly Brown? Three times as bad as what happened to Janay Rice? There is no way to escape the message sent here to victims. Play our game and we’ll throw the book at a player; ignore us and we’ll blame you.

To every appearance, what matters to the NFL is that this decision makes Goodell look strong. Cooperate with him or you’ll get screwed. If the suspension is reduced on appeal—which is highly likely—Goodell will blame the union again, continuing the owners’ quest to make the only advocate for players completely irrelevant. If it doesn’t, all the better. Most importantly, everyone can feel better about having Elliott on their fantasy football teams in a few weeks, and everyone can rest assured that the NFL is against domestic violence. There will be fireworks, cheerleaders, and fans forking out money while telling themselves that the NFL is a safe and orderly place, quite unlike the real world from which it provides a respite, run by wise leaders who stand tall. In the world of NFL discipline, that’s all that matters, and all that ever has.


What the Cowboys can expect from Morris and McFadden - Michael Manning, Pro Football Focus
With the hefty suspension for Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys will look to Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden to start the season, PFF argues.

The Cowboys might be hurt the most in the passing game, Elliott’s standout 1.37 yards per route run led the team and was 19th in the league among running backs. While McFadden’s 0.94 YPRR was the second-lowest of his career and Morris’ 0.26 was the second lowest among running backs with at least 40 snaps in route in 2016.

Morris did stand out in the Hall of Fame Game against Arizona, his 81.9 overall grade was fourth highest on the team as he forced four missed tackles on only seven carries. He only had six missed tackles forced rushing all last season.

Ezekiel Elliott suspension fallout in Dallas - Bucky Brooks, NFL.com
Brooks explains that replacing Elliott in the Cowboys' offense won't simply be about Morris and McFadden.

However, the loss of No. 21 will allow opponents to pay more attention to the Cowboys' weapons in the passing game, which will make it tougher for Prescott to carve up coverage on the outside. Defensive coordinators will utilize more Cover 2-like coverages to neutralize Dez Bryant's impact as a WR1 and force Prescott to work the underneath areas of coverage.

With that in mind, I would expect the team's offseason experimenting with various spread formations and personnel groupings to hit the main stage. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer could double down in the slot to turn the short passing game into a quasi-rushing attack. Considering how well Prescott fared in empty formations a season ago, the "spread and shred" approach could allow the Cowboys to continue to play keep-away, utilizing a ball-control passing game.

We Don’t Know What the Cowboys’ Offense Looks Like Without Ezekiel Elliott - Danny Kelly, The Ringer
The running back’s six-game suspension means that Dallas’s offense—and playoff hopes—will hinge on Dak Prescott.

The Cowboys still boast some quality running back depth behind Elliott, so it’s not like their run production will vanish entirely until Elliott returns to the field. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are both veterans with 1,000-yard seasons on their résumés. But neither offers the elusiveness and home run ability that last year’s no. 4 overall pick possesses.

That puts the onus, and the pressure, on Prescott to carry the offense. Teams have now had a full offseason to study Prescott and game plan how to stop him, so we’re going to quickly find out just how much the QB’s efficiency drops without Elliott on the field next to him.


Cowboys camp: DeMarcus Lawrence is shaping up as the biggest X-factor in Dallas - Jason La Canfora, CBSSports.com
Could DeMarcus Lawrence emerge as a force in Dallas?

Few players on this roster are more important than defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, far and away the club's most talented edge force and someone who may have to post double-digit sack totals if the Cowboys are going to reach the playoffs for consecutive seasons for just the third time in the last 20-plus years.

If you are looking for a candidate for a breakthrough year in terms of quarterback pressures among this unheralded bunch, Lawrence (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) is the guy. Ask around training camp who here can get to the passer, and his hand will shoot up as he runs to the head of the class. It's a prophecy the Cowboys desperately need to come true.

Dez Bryant: 'Filthy-nasty' Jaylon Smith looks ready to play; 'I'm ready to see him go straight into beastmode' - Jon Machota, SportsDay
How has Jaylon Smith looked? Dez Bryant has all the answers:

"He's ready in my eyes," Dez Bryant said. "The guy is phenomenal. When he touches you, it's like you know he's coming with that heat if this was a real game. The dude is filthy-nasty. I mean, in a good way. I'm ready to see him play.

"I'm glad we're on the same team, that's all I'm going to say."

"I'm ready to see him go straight into beastmode," Bryant said. "He's got Sean Lee right next to him. He's got Anthony Hitchens with him as well [and] Justin Durant. That whole linebacking corps, it's going to be a special group."