Cowboys' Elliott mum amid more legal limbo over six-game ban
Ezekiel Elliott skipped his weekly media session Wednesday because of more legal limbo in the star Dallas Cowboys running back's fight over the NFL's six-game suspension on alleged domestic violence.
The difference this week is that Elliott, the NFL's second-leading rusher, was with his teammates. That wasn't the case early last week when the 22-year-old was suspended until Friday after a judge rejected his request for a second injunction.
The third legal reprieve came in an emergency stay two days before the Cowboys beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Now Elliott seeks a longer-lasting injunction from a three-judge panel that will hear his case Thursday in New York.
A ruling could come before Sunday, when Dallas (5-3), on a three-game winning streak with significant contributions from Elliott, visits defending NFC champion Atlanta (4-4).
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on his radio show Wednesday he believed Elliott was planning to attend the hearing. If so, it will be with the blessing of coach Jason Garrett.
Elliott attended the hearing in New York last week after which U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla rejected all the arguments of his legal team in reinstating the suspension levied by Commissioner Roger Goodell in August.
The suspension followed the NFL's yearlong investigation after prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, cited conflicting evidence when declining to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State. The allegations stemmed from incidents in the summer of 2016.
"Again, we're going to focus on what we can control in that situation," Garrett said earlier this week. "Zeke has done a really good job of that. Until someone tells us otherwise, we'll proceed accordingly."
Elliott, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie last season, has been suspended briefly twice as the case has taken twists and turns in courtrooms from Texas to Louisiana to New York. He missed a day at the facility in mid-October, and three more last week.
The saga hasn't affected Elliott on the field lately. He had three straight 100-yard games, the latter pair starting a two-game winning streak. In a 28-17 win against the Chiefs on Sunday, he scored the go-ahead touchdown in the second half and finished with 93 yards.
Over the past month, Elliott has climbed the NFL rushing chart and now trails this year's dynamic rookie, Kansas City's Kareem Hunt, by 7 yards. Elliott has 793 yards and is tied with Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams for the league lead in touchdowns rushing with seven.
"I've continued to say, we're going to run our offense regardless of who's in," said quarterback Dak Prescott, who shared a remarkable debut season with Elliott and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
"I'm sure if the quarterback changes we're going to run the exact same offense that we run. So for the most part it's about coming in and controlling the things that we can control, giving a great effort and just studying the game plan for any running back or any receiver, being ready to go for Sunday."
If Elliott loses the latest ruling, his legal options are likely to be near an end. He would miss all but the last two games of the regular season, just as the Cowboys were emerging as a playoff contender a year after the surprising rookie duo carried them to the top seed in the NFC at 13-3.
"It's just doing whatever I can to get the best out of these other guys," Prescott said. "For the situation with Zeke, it's exactly that. I'm going to do the best I can to get the most out of him when he's here and make sure he's in a good place and (has) a good attitude when he's not."
AP source: Jones threatens Goodell deal after Elliott ban
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to sue the NFL over a proposed contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell, a dispute apparently sparked by star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Jones told the six owners on the compensation committee he had hired high-profile attorney David Boies and was prepared to sue if the group voted to extend Goodell’s deal, the person told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no one has been authorized to reveal details.
Jones also has expressed disapproval with the structure and compensation in the contract extension, another person familiar with the proposed lawsuit says. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason.
The actions of Jones were first reported by The New York Times.
All 32 owners voted in May to extend Goodell’s contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details. Goodell suspended Elliott in August after a yearlong NFL investigation. Prosecutors in Ohio declined to pursue the domestic violence case.
Jones, who is not on the compensation committee but is one of the most powerful owners in the league, has expressed frustration over the NFL’s pursuit of criminal matters with its own investigators.
Asked on his radio show last week if he wanted Goodell to remain commissioner, Jones avoided a direct answer and said Elliott was a “victim of an overcorrection” because of the NFL’s mishandling of former Baltimore running back Ray Rice’s domestic case involving his then-fiancee.
Goodell’s initial suspension of two games was sharply criticized because of a video showing Rice dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer from an elevator. Another video later surfaced of Rice punching Palmer in the face, and he was suspended indefinitely. The suspension was lifted by an arbitrator, but Rice never signed with another team.
“I can show you many positive things that this commissioner, Roger, has done, is doing and I can show you some of the things that he wants to take back,” Jones said on his radio show Oct. 31.
“This is a very example of it. I’m sure he’d like to take back his initial Ray Rice stance and a few others. He’s in the process of having tried to correct that and in doing so, Zeke is a victim of an overcorrection.”
The NFL hired former New York prosecutor Lisa Friel to help shape the stronger policy on domestic violence that came out of the Rice incident. The updated policy included the league’s ability to investigate cases on its own regardless of law enforcement’s involvement.
Prosecutors in Elliott’s case cited conflicting evidence when deciding not to pursue the case. The NFL’s probe continued for a year after that decision. Jones said his running back has been treated unfairly, and Elliott has denied the allegations of his ex-girlfriend under oath.
“I am very troubled by the swings that we’ve had,” Jones said on his radio program. “His swing of judgment has been unbelievable from the Ray Rice thing all the way up to one or two games, all the way to the six-game suspension when you’ve truly got a debate. In our legal system it has to be stronger than that for somebody who has done it.”
Goodell’s decision to suspend Elliott prompted weeks of twists and turns in courtrooms from Texas to Louisiana to New York. A three-judge panel in New York has a hearing Thursday to consider another injunction to stop the suspension. Elliott, on his third legal reprieve, has played all eight games for the Cowboys.
“We make the commissioner in the NFL the most powerful person that I know of as to the organization and it’s constituency, so it’s a big deal not only when we’re hiring, but when we extend him,” Jones said after a game in Washington two weekends ago. “So there’s a lot of consideration to it, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody.”
Jets GM not discouraged by Hackenberg’s development
Christian Hackenberg remains a big mystery for the New York Jets.
The second-year quarterback has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, and it appears he won’t get an opportunity any time soon.
Hackenberg is the Jets’ No. 3 quarterback, stuck behind backup Bryce Petty and 38-year-old starter Josh McCown. For a player selected in the second round of the NFL draft, some might have expected a lot more progress — at least on the depth chart.
“I think the one thing with any player is they all develop at different paces and different rates,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said Wednesday. “I think (the preseason) was good experience for Christian. I think we got an idea of areas where he still needs to improve upon, like every young player.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say (I’m) discouraged.”
But lots of Jets fans would, especially those who were hoping Hackenberg would seize the starting job during training camp. Instead, the former Penn State star fell further away from being an NFL starter.
Hackenberg went 32 of 74 for 372 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this summer, along with a dismal 68.1 quarterback rating.
With the Jets sitting at 4-5 and McCown playing solid football, New York isn’t looking to make any kind of switch under center. While the focus going into this season was the future with an all-out rebuild, the Jets find themselves sitting right in the middle of the playoff picture.
“I think Christian has done some positive things,” Maccagnan said during a 30-minute midseason roundtable with reporters. “There are areas he still needs to improve upon, but I’m encouraged with the work he and Bryce are putting in.”
Hackenberg, who was limited at practice with a bruised finger on his right hand, was the fourth quarterback selected in 2016. Jared Goff went No. 1 overall to the Rams and Carson Wentz went with the next pick to Philadelphia, and both have firmly established themselves as NFL starters.
Paxton was the third of the first-round QBs, and he started two games as a rookie but is now working his way back from a shoulder injury. Four of the 11 quarterbacks taken after Hackenberg have all started games: Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott and Kevin Hogan.
If the Jets fall out of the postseason hunt over the next month, they could use that time to further evaluate Hackenberg and Petty before entering what will be an important offseason.
“I don’t think there’s a prerequisite of what we need or don’t need to do,” Maccagnan said. “I think the one thing is we’ll see how this season progresses. We still have seven games left to play. You don’t know how the season will unfold.”
With each victory, the Jets move further away from a top 5 pick — with a chance to get their choice at a potential franchise quarterback.
They will still likely be in the market for a signal caller after this season, especially with McCown due to become a free agent. Maccagnan acknowledged that the veteran has “fulfilled all of our expectations,” but wouldn’t commit to potentially bringing him back next season.
The GM also refused to look at passing on the opportunity to take Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft, instead taking safety Jamal Adams at No. 6 overall. Watson, who was having a terrific rookie season before tearing a knee ligament, went six picks later to Houston — where Maccagnan once worked in the scouting department.
“Obviously, Deshaun was doing a very good job for Houston,” Maccagnan said. “But from our standpoint, I tend to look forward in things like that. You don’t go back and play the what-if game.”
Packers waive TE Martellus Bennett
The Green Bay Packers have waived Martellus Bennett, bringing the tight end’s short tenure at Lambeau Field to a surprising end.
General manager Ted Thompson announced the move on Wednesday after practice.
The Packers cited a “failure to disclose a physical condition” for making the move. Bennett practiced on Tuesday after the bye last week before going on the injury report with a shoulder injury.
He did not play in the 30-17 loss on Monday to the Detroit Lions after being listed as doubtful for the game.
Bennett also posted on Instagram during the bye week a message that indicated he was thinking about retirement.
“After conversations with my family I’m pretty sure these next eight games will be the conclusion of my NFL career,” he wrote. “To everyone who has poured themselves and time into my life and career. These next games are for you. Thank you.”
Bennett signed with the Packers as an unrestricted free agent last offseason and started seven games. He had 24 catches for 233 yards. Bennett dropped a few passes, but was an asset in the running game.
Bennett was listed as having not practiced on his last day with the team on Wednesday.
The injury would have kept him out of Sunday’s game at Chicago, which is where Bennett calls home after spending the 2013 through 2015 seasons with the Bears.
“Martellus Bennett will not practice this week, he will not be available for the game,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Wednesday’s practice.
“I know he was in here yesterday, there’s a number of opinions that he’s working through, he met with our medical staff yesterday, so they’re still going through the process, but he will be out against Chicago.”
Bennett’s agent, Kennard McGuire, declined comment.
During the season opener against Seattle, Bennett was one of three players who knelt for the national anthem.
In free agency, Bennett got a three-year, $21 million contract that included a $6.3 million signing bonus. Bennett had base salaries of $900,000 this season, $3.6 million (plus a $2 million roster bonus) in 2018 and $5.65 million in 2019. The Packers could go after the prorated amount of that signing bonus, $4.2 million.
With a Chicago-based family and a passion for art and creativity, the 30-year-old Bennett was asked during training camp if he had considered retiring after winning a Super Bowl with New England last season.
“I think when I stop loving the preparation is when I will give it up because that’s the most important part, whether that’s working out or watching film and studying and taking notes,” Bennett said in camp.
“Once I feel like my preparation goes down, I feel like that’s when I will walk away. I think that will happen before my body gives out.”
The Packers have two other tight ends on the roster in Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers. Both have had 50-catch seasons. Kendricks has caught eight passes for 126 yards and one touchdown while Rodgers has caught four passes for 43 yards.
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