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Cowboys News: Roger Goodell loses control over Ezekiel Elliott case, creates PR disaster for NFL

Elliott's case 'far more favorable' than Deflategate; NFL commish created a PR disaster; Goodell now open to federal testimony in NFLPA lawsuit.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

NFL denies conspiracy allegations - Dan Graziano, ESPN
The NFL's PR machine went into overdrive in response to the federal suit filed by the NFLPA and Ezekiel Elliott in Plano, Texas.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Friday morning that it's "unequivocally, absolutely false" that commissioner Roger Goodell was not aware of Kia Wright Roberts' findings in the Ezekiel Elliott investigation before he imposed discipline. "The idea that this was a conspiracy is false," Lockhart said. "The credibility issues were addressed at length in the investigative report. Kia Roberts' points were made very clearly. The 160-page report included a fulsome description of the credibility problems of both Tiffany Thompson and Ezekiel Elliott." Lockhart said the court will have to decide whether the league adhered to the CBA in its investigation, and the league obviously believes it did.

On the Kia Roberts issue, the NFL picks its poison – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
It's a little odd that we're featuring football's No. 1 news aggregator so frequently in the Elliott case, but where most other sites are content to simply report the news (or in some cases, simply pass along the NFL's PR missives), Florio & Co are one of the very few who provide context in this whole mess.

Via NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart [...] the notion Goodell didn’t know about the opinions of Kia Roberts is false. The problem with that is this: Goodell’s awareness of the opinions of the person who interviewed Tiffany Thompson on multiple occasions makes Goodell’s decision to suspend Elliott seem even weaker and more wobbly.

While awareness of Roberts’ opinions may help the league eventually prevail in a court of law (where the league usually wins), it will not help the NFL in the court of public opinion (where the league usually loses). Either Goodell didn’t know about Kia Roberts’ opinions, or he did. Neither outcome looks good for the league.

Ezekiel Elliott's attorneys say Cowboys RB was deprived of his rights - A.J. Perez, USA Today
Is the NFLPA's strategy going to work?

As result of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's "Deflategate" case, the federal courts have ruled that Goodell has the authority to suspend players under terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA. Former assistant U.S. attorney David S. Weinstein told USA TODAY Sports that Jeffrey Kessler, the attorney representing Elliott on behalf of the NFLPA, honed in on one argument that could have success with both Henderson and in U.S. District Court.

"There needs to be credible evidence," Weinstein said. "If you are going to base a decision largely on what the victim said, you have to find her testimony to be credible when you compare it to the other evidence."

Weinstein added that Kessler's rush to file served two purposes: potentially establishing a venue for the case and giving Henderson plenty to consider before making his decision.

"A smart arbitrator would look at the filing and make a decision with it in mind," Weinstein said. "He knows Kessler is going to argue there was no credible evidence."

Henderson could find that the NFL didn't meet the burden to prove Elliott committed domestic violence, but could rule that Elliott still violated the personal-conduct policy and cut the ban down. Weinstein said that would leave the NFLPA, Elliott and the Cowboys with a tough decision.

Sports legal expert: NFLPA's case for Ezekiel Elliott 'far more favorable' than Deflategate was for Tom Brady - Brad Townsend, SportsDay
Sports legal expert Daniel Wallach has been one of the go-to-guys on Twitter in the Elliott case, and also took some time to talk to the DMN. An excerpt:

While stressing that the legal fight between the NFL and NFLPA (on Elliott's behalf) is just beginning, Wallach's opinion is that the "procedural errors" and "fundamental" unfairness of the NFL's handling of the Elliott investigation, penalty and arbitration proceeding make Elliott's case "even more favorable for the player than Deflategate was for Tom Brady."

In Wallach's opinion, the NFLPA and Elliott's legal team had zero chance of overturning or even reducing the six-game suspension until the NFL, in Wallach's words, "whitewashed" the investigation.

"So, in essence, league has clutched defeat from the jaws of victory," Wallach said. "This was a pre-cooked result that did not need to be accompanied by these procedural missteps, which is so shocking, so amateurish that eventually people are going to pay for this with the loss of their jobs."

In Ezekiel Elliott, NFL commish may have picked the wrong fight, and created a PR disaster - Kevin Sherrington, SportsDay
Sherrington calls this case a "public relations disaster building by the day."

Elliott's lawyers are hammering loudest on what seems like a pretty vulnerable nail: The NFL's lead investigator, the only person who interviewed Elliott's accuser, Tiffany Thompson, not only recommended no punishment for the Cowboys' star running back, she didn't even get to present her views to the commissioner personally.

An interesting point, too. Doesn't mean that a suspension isn't warranted. But it's enough to muddy the waters.

Roger Goodell caught in Ezekiel Elliott suspension case - Charles Robinson, Yahoo
The NFLPA has its own ax to grind in this battle.

Goodell’s level of awareness would be a key aspect of the federal lawsuit, particularly where it involves Roberts’ analysis. If the players union advances into litigation seeking to prove conspiracy claims, Goodell could be subject to a deposition, be compelled to turn over pertinent communications and testify under oath in federal court. That’s a significant development for the NFLPA, which in its initial finding alleged that Roberts expressed credibility concerns with Elliott’s accuser but later had that opinion concealed from Goodell and the league’s domestic violence commission.

Ezekiel Elliott admits he used drugs at Ohio State - Brandon George, SportsDay
What most people already knew is now part of the public record.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said this week during testimony in his appeals hearing in New York that he used drugs while playing for Ohio State and still likes to party and get drunk.

Stephen Jones: Cowboys “observers” of Ezekiel Elliott process – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Cowboys' uncharacteristic decision to remain silent regarding Elliott suggests they've got something brewing, Florio suggests.

Still, for a team whose executives typically say so much, the silence has an ominous feel to it. They surely have something cooking behind the scenes, something that they fear would be undermined by speaking out now. If, ultimately, their current plans don’t come to fruition, it could be time for both Joneses to say plenty about the process that resulted in the team losing one of its finest players for nearly half of the season.

Jerry Jones an unofficial member of committee negotiating Roger Goodell’s contract – Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk
Looks like all parties are positioning themselves in the Elliott mess, including Jerry Jones.

In theory, there are ways that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could officially challenge the NFL’s suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott, if he wants. Unofficially, Jones has a far more effective way of wreaking a little havoc for 345 Park Avenue. And he’s currently doing it.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jones has made himself into, essentially, an ad hoc member of the Compensation Committee. Though not one of the three owners who officially joined the three existing owners in May for the purposes of negotiating Commissioner Roger Goodell’s extension, committee chairman Arthur Blank has allowed Jones to have a role and a voice in the process of hammering out Goodell’s proposed new deal.

Do Cowboys still have NFL’s best offensive line? Two rankings say no. - Michael Sisemore, Blogging The Boys
Both Brandon Thorn of Inside the Pylon and Gary Horton of FanRag Sports have the Cowboys ranked as the second-best O-line in the league, once behind the Raiders, and once behind the Steelers. No biggie.

The NFL is certainly filled with good offensive line play but the Cowboys are showing us the difference between good and great. This Cowboys unit understands that they have to continuously prove their dominance. If the past few years are any indicator, it’s going to be a while before anyone’s ready to dethrone this bunch.

Dallas Cowboys roster cuts: RB Ronnie Hillman, TE MJ McFarland have been released - Blogging The Boys
The trim down to the 53-man roster has begun, and the first casualties are in.

RB Ronnie Hillman, TE M.J. McFarland, and RB Brandon Brown-Dukes are the first players to have been cut.

David Irving and Damontre' Moore will be moved to the suspended list at some point today.

That leaves 32 more cuts to go.

Jerry Jones says rookie WR Noah Brown will make the team - OCC, Blogging The Boys
Good news for Brown, who's stood out in preseason play.

Noah Brown played the second-most snaps of any Cowboys player this preseason with 182, and tellingly, 55 of those came on special teams where Brown had carved out a niche for himself.

The decision to go long at wide receiver ups the pressure on the Cowboys to go short at other positions, like perhaps linebacker, corner, or possibly QB.

Dallas Cowboys offer up clues to their 53-man roster - Todd Archer, ESPN.
Jerry and Stephen Jones have been dropping hints about what the 53-man roster to be announced later today might look like.

Jerry Jones said rookie Noah Brown will be on the roster, which means the Cowboys likely will carry six wide receivers. Stephen Jones said the Cowboys will “probably” keep eight defensive linemen on the initial roster, which is fewer than in the past.

Tight end Rico Gathers might be a candidate for injured reserve, but for him to be able to return during the season he has to be on the 53-man roster for a day. That means the Cowboys would have to carry four tight ends Saturday, including Jason Witten, James Hanna and Geoff Swaim.

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