WHY EL­LIOTT AND COW­BOYS ARE SINGING THE BLUES

El­liott be­comes 16th Cow­boys player sus­pended since 2014, and Jones’ per­spec­tive isn’t help­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - Cedric Golden Com­men­tary

Jerry Jones went from wear­ing a yel­low jacket at his Hall of Fame in­duc­tion to singing the blues.

In the eyes of the NFL, his best player phys­i­cally abused a woman on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, and for that, Ezekiel El­liott won’t be in a Cow­boys uni­form for a good long while — at least six games, if you’re keep­ing score at home.

Ap­peal com­ing. Jerry in­censed.

The NFL says it has enough ev­i­dence to war­rant ban­ish­ing the All-Pro run­ning back for more than a third of the reg­u­lar sea­son with­out pay for a vi­o­la­tion of its per­sonal con­duct pol­icy. With a month re­main­ing un­til their sea­son opener against the New York Giants, the Cow­boys are al­ready tak­ing

on the look of a wild-card team. Or worse.

El­liott was ac­cused of do­mes­tic abuse by a for­mer girl­friend, Tif­fany Thompson, though he wasn’t for­mally charged with any crime. That didn’t pre­vent the league’s front of­fice from de­ter­min­ing through its year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion that it had more than enough ev­i­dence to put El­liott on the shelf.

Now his team’s owner, his coaches and his team­mates will have to deal with the fall­out. The league sent El­liott a let­ter ad­vis­ing him of its find­ings and told him its ad­vis­ers be­lieved “that there is sub­stan­tial and per­sua­sive ev­i­dence sup­port­ing a find­ing that (he) en­gaged in phys­i­cal vi­o­lence against Ms. Thompson on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions dur­ing the week of July 16, 2016.”

Af­ter just one sea­son, El­liott has grad­u­ated from mis­chievous imp to NFL of­fender. To wit:

Jump­ing into the Sal­va­tion Army ket­tle to cel­e­brate a touch­down was good hol­i­day fun, right?

■Show­ing up at a mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary in Seat­tle? Far from smart but not il­le­gal.

The al­le­ga­tions that El­liott pulled down a woman’s shirt dur­ing a St. Pa­trick’s Day cel­e­bra­tion? An eye-opener and an un­for­tu­nate har­bin­ger of more se­ri­ous is­sues for a 22-year-old who hasn’t yet struck the right bal­ance in his off-the-field be­hav­ior.

While Jones pon­ders the loss of his run­ning back and El­liott thinks about the $100,000 per game he won’t be mak­ing while he’s out, the big­gest ques­tion com­ing out of Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment was: Did he see this com­ing?

That an­swer is no if you be­lieve what he was putting down at the start of train­ing camp. Last month, El­liott was asked dur­ing a news con­fer­ence if he ex­pected to be sus­pended. The Cow­boys also were re­view­ing El­liott’s ac­tions, and the man sign­ing the run­ning back’s pay­checks had some­thing to say.

“There’s noth­ing,” Jones said. “I have re­viewed ev­ery­thing. There is ab­so­lutely noth­ing, not one thing that I have seen that has any­thing to do with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.”

Then he dou­bled down dur­ing half­time of the Cow­boys’ Hall of Fame game against Ari­zona last week.

“The do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is not an is­sue,” Jones said dur­ing the NBC broad­cast. “Zeke has had some other things that are be­ing looked at. The do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is not an is­sue.” Well ... The NFL was decades be­hind other ma­jor league sports in re­gard to its treat­ment of do­mes­tic abusers, and it has tried like heck to show it is con­cerned about the prob­lem. Af­ter all, the world can’t un-see the tape of Ray Rice knock­ing his wife un­con­scious in an el­e­va­tor.

So El­liott is pay­ing the price — di­rectly out of his wal­let — although I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see his sus­pen­sion re­duced upon ap­peal.

To me, the Cow­boys have be­come the mod­ern-day ver­sion of the Oak- land Raiders, and El­liott’s sus­pen­sion does noth­ing to di­min­ish that grow­ing per­cep­tion. He be­came the 16th Cow­boy to be sus- pended since 2014, and there could be more to come.

Line­backer Randy Gregory will miss the en­tire sea­son af­ter vi­o­lat­ing the league’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy for a third time, and de­fen­sive ends David Irv­ing and Da­mon­tre Moore will sit out four and two games, re­spec­tively, for run­ning afoul of the same pol­icy.

Line­backer Damien Wil­son (ag­gra­vated as­sault charge) and de­fen­sive back Nolan Carroll (DWI) also could be on the hook to miss time.

The NFL is far from per­fect, but it dif­fers from other ma­jor sports or­ga­ni­za­tions in its abil­ity to mete out pun­ish­ments, even if the player hasn’t been charged by le­gal au­thor­i­ties. While there are con­flict­ing ac­counts in po­lice re­ports as to whether El­liott com­mit­ted the of­fenses the NFL is pun­ish­ing him for, a blind man could see trou­ble was com­ing his way sooner or later.

Turns out it was sooner.

MICHAEL AINSWORTH / AP

Af­ter an out­stand­ing rookie sea­son, Dal­las’ Ezekiel El­liott has gone from ras­cal to NFL of­fender and has been sus­pended six games.

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