AROUND THE NFL

Ap­peals court re­in­states Cow­boys run­ning back El­liott’s six-game sus­pen­sion ... TV rat­ings are down once again ... Mar­i­ota’s sta­tus for Sun­day still very much in the air

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS -

Ezekiel El­liott’s six-game NFL sus­pen­sion is back on. For now, any­way.

A U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals on Thurs­day va­cated a lower court’s pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion block­ing the league’s sus­pen­sion with­out pay of the Dal­las Cow­boys run­ning back.

Af­ter its own year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion the NFL had con­cluded in Au­gust there was “sub­stan­tial and per­sua­sive ev­i­dence” El­liott on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions in July 2016 “en­gaged in phys­i­cal vi­o­lence” against his then girl­friend in Ohio.

Pre­vi­ously, Ohio po­lice and au­thor­i­ties nei­ther ar­rested nor charged El­liott with any wrong­do­ing in the mat­ter.

The NFL play­ers union, rep­re­sent­ing El­liott, ap­pealed the sus­pen­sion. Be­fore the ar­biter ren­dered his de­ci­sion to up­hold the league’s pun­ish­ment, the union — sure it would lose the ap­peal -sought a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der in a New Or­leans district court. A judge there granted the in­junc­tion on the eve of the reg­u­lar sea­son, call­ing El­liott’s sus­pen­sion “fun­da­men­tally un­fair” in shelv­ing the sus­pen­sion.

The league ap­pealed to the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peal. A three-judge panel heard oral ar­gu­ments, and in a 2-1 de­ci­sion an­nounced Thurs­day the panel sided with the NFL’s ar­gu­ments, con­cluded the district court had no proper sub­ject-mat­ter ju­ris­dic­tion, and or­dered said lower court to dis­miss the case.

Dal­las has a bye this week. The next time El­liott and the Cow­boys are sched­uled to play is a week from Sun­day at the San Fran­cisco 49ers. Bar­ring any fur­ther le­gal stays or de­lays, El­liott’s six-game sus­pen­sion would be­gin then. El­liott would re­turn from sus­pen­sion in time to play in the Cow­boys’ Nov. 30 home game against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins.

NFL Net­work re­ported Cow­boys run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott (cen­tre) would be able to re­turn to ac­tion for a Nov. 30 game against the Red­skins. that the NFLPA likely will re­file its ap­peal in a New York court, to again seek a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der and pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion.

Be­cause with NFL court cases, it’s never over.

Dal­las Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones met with his play­ers Wed­nes­day, to fur­ther dis­cuss his feel­ings on player protests. SI.com’s Al­bert Breer re­ported that Jones “ad­vo­cated dif­fer­ent ways the league and play­ers could work to­gether to cre­ate so­cial change,” but with­out hurt­ing the league’s busi­ness. The in­fer­ence be­ing: Var­i­ous forms of an­them boy­cotts by play­ers hurt league busi­ness.

Mean­time, com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell gave an in­ter­view to league-owned NFL Net­work to un­der­score that the league, as of now, has no rule man­dat­ing play­ers must stand dur­ing the play­ing of The Star Span­gled Ban­ner; league pol­icy only says play­ers “should” stand. Good­ell did not add that word­ing might well change next week, when own­ers meet Tues­day and Wed­nes­day in New York City. The NFLPA and select play­ers will join them to dis­cuss th­ese is­sues. Per the Sport­ing News, NFL TV rat­ings in the U.S. are still down over­all — specif­i­cally, down 7% yearover-year and down 15% over the same time­frame com­pared to 2015, the best year for NFL TV rat­ings.

The av­er­age TV au­di­ence for all NFL games this sea­son is 15.156 mil­lion Amer­i­can view­ers, down from 16.371 mil­lion in 2016, and 18.438 mil­lion in 2015.

Rea­sons? Prob­a­bly many of the same rea­sons all tra­di­tional net­work TV view­er­ship is in a freefall, such as fewer young peo­ple watch­ing for shorter pe­ri­ods of time, and more non-tra­di­tional view­ing op­tions now avail­able, and on non-tra­di­tional plat­forms.

No doubt an­other rea­son is the loss of view­ers of­fended by player protests dur­ing the an­them.

Ten­nessee Ti­tans QB Mar­cus Mar­i­ota — who missed last Sun­day’s game with a ham­string in­jury, “did more” at Thurs­day’s prac­tice. But head coach Mike Mu­larkey said “we’ll just have to see how it feels in the morn­ing af­ter what he did to­day … He did a lit­tle bit more than (Wed­nes­day) … He threw some balls, and did some things.”

Mar­i­ota still has yet to run a sprint since suf­fer­ing the in­jury two weeks ago, though. Hm­mmm.

Cincin­nati placed tight end Tyler Eifert on in­jured re­serve with a nag­ging back in­jury. He hadn’t played since Week 2. Cincin­nati. com re­ported that the oft­in­jured Eifert re­quires surgery on his back that will keep him from foot­ball ac­tiv­i­ties for 4-6 months.

Wild­fires in the Bay Area of Cal­i­for­nia, which have killed more than 20 peo­ple and de­stroyed in­nu­mer­able prop­er­ties, forced the Oakland Raiders to ad­just their Thurs­day prac­tice sched­ule. Air qual­ity is be­low healthy lev­els. The NFL is mon­i­tor­ing, and as of Thurs­day the Raiders’ home game Sun­day af­ter­noon against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers was still on. NFL Net­work re­ported that the 49ers’ home — Levi’s Sta­dium in Santa Clara, across the bay and about an hour’s bumpy, mis­er­able, traf­fic­congested drive south of San Fran­cisco — is avail­able Sun­day, if needed.

An­drew Luck is “ramp­ing up” his in­volve­ment at In­di­anapo­lis Colts prac­tices this week, ac­cord­ing to Zak Keefer of the In­di­anapo­lis Star. On Thurs­day the quar­ter­back threw with no­tice­ably more zip than he did in his first prac­tice of the year last week. “More snaps, more throws, more yards, more zip, more foot­ball,” Keefer wrote. Luck un­der­went surgery on this right throw­ing shoul­der in Jan­uary; his re­cov­ery has been tur­tle-slow. The Colts now will start work­ing Luck into sev­envs.-seven drills this week, and even give him a hand­ful of scout-team snaps … New Eng­land QB Tom Brady (sore left shoul­der) and TE Rob Gronkowski (thigh) prac­tised Thurs­day on a lim­ited ba­sis, af­ter both missed Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice en­tirely.

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