Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the N.F.L.'s leading rusher as a rookie last season, has been suspended for six games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy. The N.F.L., after a yearlong investigations, reached its ...
This time, one of the league’s most powerful owners, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, could end up in a showdown with the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell.
Jones has repeatedly defended Elliott, 22, recently saying that his review of the situation suggested “not one thing — that had anything to do with domestic violence.”
But according to an N.F.L. statement, Todd Jones, the league’s special counsel for conduct, informed Elliott in a letter that the league’s group of advisers “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
Goodell consulted four advisers on the case: Peter Harvey, the former attorney general of New Jersey; Ken Houston, a Pro Football Hall of Famer; Tonya Lovelace, the chief executive of the Women of Color Network; and Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney and chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The league said it interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Thompson and Elliott, as part of its investigation, and examined photographic evidence and thousands of text messages and other electronic communications.
The N.F.L.’s statement.Elliott’s lawyers, Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum, released a statement through Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, saying “the N.F.L.’s findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions.”
They added, “During the upcoming weeks and through the appeal a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light.”
Harvey told reporters on a conference call that the NFL had access to forensic electronic evidence that prosecutors did not have, according to The Associated Press.
Some of the explanations suggested by Elliott’s representatives, he said, including the possibility that Thompson was injured in a fight with a woman or by falling down stairs, were unsubstantiated.
“There is no dispute that you and Ms. Thompson were together in the same location on the dates identified, and no evidence to suggest that anyone else could have caused these injuries,” the letter said.
The N.F.L. absorbed withering criticism for its handling of a domestic violence incident in 2014 involving the former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who initially received a two-game suspension after he was charged with assaulting his fiancée, who is now his wife. Only after video surfaced of the incident, in which Rice knocked out his fiancée in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, did the N.F.L. suspend him indefinitely.
Admitting that he had mismanaged the case, Goodell overhauled the league’s personal conduct policy, introducing harsher guidelines for players and league employees involved in domestic violence cases by mandating six-game suspensions instead of two for first-time offenders.
That rule has since been applied inconsistently. Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa had a suspension reduced to four games in October 2015 because he cooperated throughout the process. By contrast, the former Giants kicker Josh Brown, who wrote about being “physically, verbally and emotionally” abusive to his wife, was suspended for one game.
The Cowboys clearly prepared for their leading rusher’s pending absence, maintaining one of the deepest stables of running backs in the N.F.L. despite having a workhorse in Elliott.
Elliott’s carries will be spread among Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Ronnie Hillman and Jahad Thomas. Hillman, who spent four years with the Denver Broncos before splitting last season between the Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers, was added in July, generating speculation that he was brought in to help fill in for Elliott should a suspension occur.
At the time of the signing, the Cowboys coach, Jason Garrett, denied that the team’s interest in Hillman had anything to do with Elliott, saying a hamstring injury to Thomas at the beginning of training camp inspired the move.
“It really has everything to do with Jahad’s situation,” Garrett told reporters.
Still, the biggest question for the Cowboys as far as on-field production is concerned, is how the quarterback Dak Prescott will handle the start of his sophomore season without Elliott, who he came to rely on not just as a runner but as a tremendous decoy in the team’s play-action passing attack.
Football,Dallas Cowboys,Elliott Ezekiel (1995- ),Domestic Violence