Ezekiel Elliott sus­pended 6 games in do­mes­tic case

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

DAL­LAS :

The NFL sus­pended star Dal­las Cow­boys run­ning back Ezekiel Elliott for six games Fri­day, con­clud­ing af­ter a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that the league’s lead­ing rusher in­jured his former girl­friend in three separate in­ci­dents last sum­mer.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter Elliott re­ceived in­form­ing him of the sus­pen­sion, the NFL be­lieved he used “phys­i­cal force” three times in a span of five days in a Colum­bus, Ohio, apart­ment last July re­sult­ing in in­juries to Tif­fany Thomp­son’s face, neck, shoul­ders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees. She was his girl­friend at the time.

Pros­e­cu­tors in Colum­bus de­cided nearly a year ago not to pur­sue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State. In an­nounc­ing the sus­pen­sion un­der the NFL’s per­sonal con­duct pol­icy, the league said its in­ves­ti­ga­tion was based on pho­to­graphs, text mes­sages and other elec­tronic ev­i­dence. Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell made his de­ci­sion based on the find­ings and in con­sul­ta­tion with four ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing Hall of Fame player Ken Hous­ton.

Elliott’s ban means the Cow­boys will have four play­ers sus­pended when last year’s NFC East cham­pi­ons start the sea­son in a month - with the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing two more.

The 22-year-old El­liot has three days to ap­peal the rul­ing, which his le­gal team said he would do while blast­ing the de­ci­sion. “The NFL’s find­ings are re­plete with fac­tual in­ac­cu­ra­cies and er­ro­neous con­clu­sions and it ‘cherry picks’ so-called ev­i­dence to sup­port its con­clu­sion while ig­nor­ing other crit­i­cal ev­i­dence,” at­tor­neys Frank Salzano and Scott Rosen­blum said in a joint state­ment. “Dur­ing the up­com­ing weeks and through the ap­peal, a slew of ad­di­tional cred­i­ble and con­tro­vert­ing ev­i­dence will come to light.”

If Good­ell’s rul­ing stands, Elliott will go on the sus­pended list the first week of the regular sea­son and be el­i­gi­ble to re­turn to the ac­tive ros­ter Oct. 23. His first pos­si­ble game would be Week 8 at Washington.

NEEDS COUN­SEL­ING

The rul­ing re­quires Elliott to get an eval­u­a­tion to de­ter­mine whether he needs coun­sel­ing or treat­ment, and to show proof that he is fol­low­ing up on any rec­om­men­da­tions. NFL spe­cial coun­sel for con­duct Todd Jones wrote in the let­ter to Elliott that 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.” Last Septem­ber, the of­fice of Colum­bus City At­tor­ney Richard Pfeif­fer cited con­flict­ing and in­con­sis­tent in­for­ma­tion in the ev­i­dence in de­cid­ing against criminal charges. Pfeif­fer’s of­fice de­clined com­ment Fri­day.

Peter Har­vey, one of the ad­vis­ers to Good­ell, said the NFL had ac­cess to foren­sic elec­tronic ev­i­dence that pros­e­cu­tors didn’t have. Har­vey said an ex­am­ple was proof that pho­to­graphs were taken by Thomp­son the same day she al­leged that she was in­jured by Elliott.

Har­vey also said some of the ex­pla­na­tions of­fered by Elliott’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing that Thomp­son was in­jured in a fight with a woman or by fall­ing down stairs, weren’t sup­ported by ev­i­dence. “It is also im­por­tant to note that, while there may be con­flict­ing testimonial ev­i­dence re­gard­ing the na­ture and sub­stance of con­ver­sa­tions, 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.

Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones had main­tained he hadn’t seen any­thing to in­di­cate Elliott was guilty of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and he didn’t think his star back would be sus­pended. Jones made the com­ments sev­eral times, in­clud­ing dur­ing fes­tiv­i­ties last week­end when he was in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame. The rul­ing po­ten­tially could put Good­ell and Jones, a strong sup­porter of the com­mis­sioner, at odds the same way Good­ell clashed with New Eng­land owner Robert Kraft over last year’s four-game sus­pen­sion for quar­ter­back Tom Brady over the “De­flate­gate” con­tro­versy.

The NFL re­vised its per­sonal con­duct pol­icy in 2014 fol­low­ing sharp crit­i­cism of a case in­volv­ing former Bal­ti­more run­ning back Ray Rice. The pol­icy gave Good­ell author­ity to sus­pend play­ers for at least six games in do­mes­tic cases, with or with­out a con­vic­tion.

OFF-FIELD IS­SUES

Elliott has had a string of off-field is­sues in the year since the Cow­boys made him the fourth over­all pick in the 2016 draft. He was seen in a le­gal mar­i­juana shop dur­ing the pre­sea­son in Seat­tle last year and was also in­volved in a bar fight in Dal­las a week be­fore train­ing camp this year. The NFL’s let­ter to Elliott cited the Ohio case as well as an in­ci­dent this past spring when Elliott was caught on video pulling down a woman’s shirt while watch­ing a St. Pa­trick’s Day pa­rade in Dal­las.

While the league said the St. Pa­trick’s Day in­ci­dent wasn’t part of the de­ci­sion on dis­ci­pline, it re­flected poorly on Elliott. “You should un­der­stand, how­ever, that your be­hav­ior dur­ing this event was in­ap­pro­pri­ate and dis­turb­ing, and re­flected a lack of re­spect for women,” Todd Jones wrote. “When viewed to­gether with the July in­ci­dents, it sug­gests a pat­tern of poor judg­ment and be­hav­ior for which ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tion is nec­es­sary for your per­sonal and pro­fes­sional wel­fare.”

An All-Pro as a rookie, Elliott fin­ished with 1,631 yards rush­ing in help­ing the Cow­boys to the best record in the NFC at 13-3 be­fore a divi­sional play­off loss to Green Bay. He set rookie fran­chise records for yards, rush­ing touch­downs (15) and to­tal touch­downs (16).

The NFL’s let­ter tried to of­fer Elliott some en­cour­age­ment. “While this is a se­ri­ous matter, it by no means sug­gests a be­lief that you can­not have a long and pro­duc­tive ca­reer in the NFL,” the let­ter said. “Our goal is for you to have as suc­cess­ful a ca­reer as pos­si­ble.”

Three Dal­las de­fen­sive ends will start the sea­sons with sus­pen­sions. Randy Gre­gory will miss at least the en­tire regular sea­son for mul­ti­ple vi­o­la­tions of the NFL’s sub­stance-abuse pol­icy. David Irv­ing is out four games (per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs) and Da­mon­tre Moore will sit two games (sub­stance abuse).

Two more de­fen­sive play­ers could face sus­pen­sions. Line­backer Damien Wil­son faces ag­gra­vated as­sault charges in the Dal­las sub­urb of Frisco over a dis­pute in­volv­ing a park­ing space, and cor­ner­back Nolan Car­roll was ar­rested on a drunken-driv­ing charge in Dal­las. —AP

Ezekiel Elliott

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