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Cowboys News: Latest on Elliott appeal, health for the game, and yes, they are still America’s Team

Dak Prescott has another year under his belt, which changes things a lot.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

We hate to still have it dragging on, but the Ezekiel Elliott suspension story is the biggest thing in the NFL right now, and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Dallas Cowboys: Elliott lawyer says Friel 'misrepresented truth' | Clarence E. Hill, Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Hill has been doing yeoman work covering the Elliott case. This is a succinct summary of all the most recent developments.

Lawyers for Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott continue to accuse the NFL of conspiring to hide and suppress evidence in their 13-month investigation of him for violating the personal conduct policy, resulting in a six-game suspension.

Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the National Football League Players Association representing Elliott, called out Lisa Friel, the NFL’s senior vice president for investigations, numerous times before Judge Amos Mazzant in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Texas in a hearing for a temporary restraining order against the suspension Tuesday evening.

Dallas Cowboys: Arbitrator explains why he upheld Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension, where NFL investigated 'meticulously' | SportsDay staff
Harold Henderson explained why he upheld the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. We'll present this quote without comment. Although we really, really want to.

Among Henderson's key points: Investigators Kia Roberts and Lisa Friel were surprised Goodell didn't ask them to make a recommendation on Elliott's ultimate discipline but the collective bargaining agreement allowed for the process as Goodell carried it out.

"If this is in fact a first effort under the new procedures," Henderson says, "they got it right."

How the NFL botched Ezekiel Elliott's case - Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
It is not only the Cowboys faithful and local media that see serious issues in the Elliott investigation and suspension. Here is a writer from outside the Dallas community that has a scathing take.

The most glaring issue is NFL investigator Kia Wright Roberts testified at Elliott’s appeal hearing that she would not have recommended suspending Elliott in this case. She cited a lack of corroborating evidence, both via witnesses and other data, to back up Thompson’s story. She was the only person from the NFL to speak to Thompson.

The NFL is within its rights to reject the opinion of its investigator, but doing so warrants an explanation. Rather than provide one in its original ruling that deemed Elliott’s actions “inappropriate and disturbing,” the league failed to mention Robert’s counter-opinion at all.

The NFL just acted like it didn’t exist. Or, more likely, operated under the belief the counter-opinion would never get out.

This is malpractice. And not just if you are inclined to believe Elliott did no wrong.

It’s especially malpractice if you’re the NFL and you believe that he did.

Having the lead investigator disagree with the decision due to a lack of evidence and credibility has to be revealed. Then it needs to be explained away, immediately and thoroughly. It’s the obvious weak point of the decision, and thus needs to be answered for in convincing fashion.

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott practicing in preparation for playing Week 1 - Todd Archer, ESPN
Maybe it is reading between the lines, but look for Elliott to make a statement in the Giants game.

"He seems very focused, locked in on meetings, the walk-through," coach Jason Garrett said. "We'll have a good practice today. He's done an excellent job in his preparation."

Thankfully, real football with no courts or lawyers in sight is almost here. On to the important thing: The opening game of the season for the Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants. Let’s start with the health of the teams.

Cowboys practice report: Jourdan Lewis limited; Tyrone Crawford, Chidobe Awuzie full participants | Jon Machota, SportsDay
This is definitely good news.

The No. 1 goal of training camp is to get through it without any significant injuries.

Outside of Anthony Hitchens, the Cowboys basically accomplished that goal.

When the first practice report of the season was released Wednesday afternoon, middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens was the only player listed as DNP (Did not practice).

Odell Beckham Jr. misses New York Giants practice, won't 'count out' playing vs. Dallas Cowboys - Jordan Raanan, ESPN
This is the big injury concern for the Giants, and bears watching.

Odell Beckham Jr. didn't practice Wednesday, but as for playing Sunday night when the New York Giants open the season against the Dallas Cowboys, he said he "wouldn't count it out."

Beckham, who has been dealing with a left ankle injury, said he is "feeling better." He did some light jogging Wednesday at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center without a brace or tape on the ankle and declared himself day-to-day.

Here are the full injury reports for both the Cowboys and Giants.

How Cowboys QB Dak Prescott went from 'scaring the hell out of' the Giants to earning their admiration | Jori Epstein, SportsDay
The New York Giants now know a lot more about Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott than they did a year ago.

"Last year we weren't sure what we were going to see and sometimes what you don't know scares the hell out of you," Giants head coach Ben McAdoo told reporters Wednesday on a conference call. "But seeing him out there and seeing the way he's progressed, you have to admire him."

What have the Giants learned after a year and two wins against Prescott's Cowboys?

"We have a better understanding that he's a tremendous talent, tremendous player," McAdoo said, "and he's earned a lot of respect in this league."

Just a little reminder of what Dak Prescott did last season - you know, before a full offseason and camp of work as the incumbent number one QB.

La'el Collins faces New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul - Todd Archer, ESPN
A key matchup for the game Sunday night is new Cowboys right tackle La'el Collins against explosive Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. (Yeah, I went there.)

Collins, who started 14 games at left guard over his first two years, has been studying Pierre-Paul for a good portion of the offseason.

"He's a real talented player," Collins said. "I think as a defensive unit as a whole, the front end and the back end, they do a good job working together, and everybody understands where they need to be at. For us, we just got to go out there and trust what we have to do as a team and go get it done together."

What might help Collins is that he worked against one of the best pass-rushers in football in the preseason when he lined up across from Khalil Mack -- who had 11 sacks a year ago -- and more than held his own.

Sturm: Understanding offensive personnel, and the craziest stat of Cowboys' 2016 season | Bob Sturm, SportsDay
Bob Sturm's Decoding Linehan and Marinelli Report are two of the most informative posts about the Cowboys each and every week of the season. Here, he explains what he is doing with his look at the offense, and comes up with some very telling statistics from last year.

We want to know what makes the Cowboys' offense tick. And it is more complex than just saying they "have good players." That helps, but strategy and tactics are everything in this sport.

-- They were the best first-down rushing team in the league. They averaged 5.1 yards per rush on first downs, making second downs manageable.

-- When you are willing to run and run well on first and second downs, the defense is forced to step up and stop it. That sets up play-action (a pass that, at first, looks like a run), and the Cowboys ran the third-most play-action plays in the league, averaging almost nine yards per play.

-- Also, because of this, they faced third downs in a very advantageous way. Or, often not at all. They converted third downs at a very nice rate (especially with a rookie quarterback)of 42.3 percent. But, more importantly, they faced the 29th-most third downs. In other words, they never had third downs. And, did you know that in the past three (and even five) years, no team in the NFL has faced fewer third downs than the Cowboys? Thanks, running game!

-- According to Football Outsiders, that also puts the Cowboys as the best red-zone rushing offense and second-best rushing offense in goal-to-goal.

Five Dallas Cowboys newcomers who should provide the most impact this season | Brandon George, SportsDay
With real football just days away, here is a look at the five new faces that will have the most impact for Dallas this season (with a bonus list of the second five). Leading off the group: Jaylon Smith.

Smith played 27 snaps in two preseason games for the Cowboys, flashing the quickness and explosiveness that scouts drooled over before he was injured in his final game at Notre Dame. Smith has shown the Cowboys that he's ready for the regular season.

Smith is still wearing a brace to support his drop-foot condition, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said he's between 80 percent and 90 percent recovered from a left knee injury Jan. 1, 2016, that kept him out his entire rookie season.

The Cowboys will probably keep Smith on a limited snap count early in the season but continue to give him more work with each game to mirror the team's slow-but-steady comeback plan for him.

'Voted To Lead': The Story Of The 2017 Dallas Cowboys Captains - The Honors, Snubs, Quotes & Jokes - Mike Fisher, Cowboys HQ
The Cowboys wanted to include Travis Frederick as a team captain, which was more than the NFL allows by rule. But they were told they couldn't.

Apparently, there was a tie between a pair of defensive players. So Garrett and staff were hopeful that the sixth and seventh guys could both slip in there together.

Obviously - well, at least it’s obvious to me - if the NFL allowed more than six due to “ties,’’ NFL teams could fake “ties’’ and then conjure extra captains out of thin air.

So, no. Here’s who you get:

Quarterback Dak Prescott, tight end Jason Witten, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, linebacker Sean Lee, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and kicker Dan Bailey.

NFL Denies Cowboys Seven Captains; Patriots Say They Have Seven « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth staff
Wait a minute . . .

Curiously, the New England Patriots put out a post on their Instagram account with their captains on Wednesday afternoon … and they had seven of them.

How being named a Cowboys captain raises the bar for Orlando Scandrick | Jon Machota, SportsDay
There was a minor kerfuffle during the offseason when rumors circulated that Orlando Scandrick was being shopped as trade bait. Now, he has been selected by his teammates to be a team captain.

"It just means that you're respected by your teammates," Scandrick said. "You come to work every day. I've been here for a long time. I just try to be myself. Being a captain is a great accomplishment."

America’s Team: Cowboys Tickets Most In Demand « CBS Dallas / Fort Worth staff
One thing is certain. All the off-field drama has not hurt the appeal of the Cowboys.

According to StubHub’s data heading into the 2017 season, which kicks off Thursday night, the Cowboys easily have maintained their top spot, doubling the popularity of games involving New England. The Patriots, who open the schedule against Kansas City in that kickoff game, have seen a 44 percent rise in demand for their games, yet aren’t within shouting distance of Dallas.

And finally, here’s a little food for thought about an historic moment we are likely to see in the season opener.

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You can find all the details in this fanpost, and you'd better sign up quickly, because today’s the last day if you want credit for picking tonight’s game!

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