Jerry Jones backs star player El­liott

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SOCCER/NFL - SCHUYLER DIXON

OXNARD, Calif. — Jerry Jones in­ter­jected some bad­boy anec­dotes from his youth, smiled at the thought of life be­fore so­cial me­dia and even asked a cou­ple of ques­tions him­self Sun­day at his an­nual train­ing camp opener with re­porters.

When the topic is the mul­ti­tude of off-field is­sues con­fronting the Dal­las Cow­boys — head­lined by star run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott — their owner, pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager can dance with the best of them.

“I can give you the same old ex­cuses — young, ag­gres­sive, got a lot of en­ergy,” Jones said. “Hard to paint that pic­ture of the days when it won’t be this easy, they won’t be as pretty and they won’t have the money. Some­how you’ve got to paint the pic­ture.”

El­liott is still wait­ing for clear­ance from the NFL on a year-old do­mes­tic vi­o­lence case that pros­e­cu­tors didn’t pur­sue. The NFL rush­ing leader last sea­son as a rookie, El­liott didn’t help him­self with his in­volve­ment in a bar fight a week be­fore the Cow­boys flew to Cal­i­for­nia for camp.

Jones re­it­er­ated his be­lief that El­liott wasn’t guilty of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in a dis­pute with his ex-girl­friend last sum­mer in Colum­bus, Ohio, where he starred for Ohio State. But the Dal­las owner still wouldn’t spec­u­late on whether El­liott will get sus­pended.

The Cow­boys will have two sus­pended de­fen­sive play­ers when the sea­son starts in pass rush­ers David Irv­ing and Randy Gre­gory. Two more could be: cor­ner­back Nolan Carroll (drunken-driv­ing charge) and line­backer Damien Wil­son (ag­gra­vated as­sault charges).

Re­ceiver Dez Bryant was late to re­port at the team’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity in sub­ur­ban Dal­las on Fri­day, a day be­fore he was on the team flight to Cal­i­for­nia. Irv­ing de­cided to stay in Cal­i­for­nia rather than re­port in Texas, and run­ning back Dar­ren McFad­den missed the char­ter flight.

Not enough for the week lead­ing to camp, with the first prac­tice Mon­day?

How about re­ceiver Lucky White­head claim­ing his dog was taken and held for ran­som be­fore be­ing re­turned? Or video sur­fac­ing of re­ceiver Ter­rance Wil­liams ac­cept­ing a chal­lenge to a footrace out­side a strip club late one night?

Still doesn’t faze Jones much with the Cow­boys try­ing to fol­low a 13-3 sea­son that was the best in the NFC be­fore a divi­sional play­off loss to Green Bay.

“There’s ab­so­lutely no im­pact on the spirit, or the en­thu­si­asm or the ex­pec­ta­tion, which I would use those words in defin­ing mo­men­tum and still not re­ally know that I know what mo­men­tum is,” Jones said. “You just can’t let that de­ter go­ing about your work and get­ting the job done.”

Coach Ja­son Gar­rett con­tin­ues to vouch for El­liott’s char­ac­ter, de­spite the two most press­ing is­sues and older episodes of vis­it­ing a le­gal mar­i­juana shop in Seat­tle dur­ing the pre­sea­son last year and pulling down a woman’s shirt dur­ing a St. Patrick’s Day pa­rade this past spring.

“We be­lieve in Zeke El­liott,” Gar­rett said about last year’s fourth over­all pick. “It’s in­cum­bent upon all of us, ev­ery­body in our or­ga­ni­za­tion — coaches, play­ers, ev­ery­body who is con­nected with Zeke — to help him un­der­stand the im­por­tance of mak­ing good de­ci­sions.” Jones, who will be in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame next month, had sev­eral un­prompted an­swers, usu­ally to tell one of the sto­ries that may or may not make the cut for his ac­cep­tance speech.

The 74-year-old twice asked son Stephen, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of per­son­nel, to take on ques­tions — in­clud­ing one on how risk-re­ward re­lates to build­ing a ros­ter.

“It’s not a tol­er­ance,” Jones said. “There is no ques­tion that when you’re not avail­able, it hurts ev­ery­body count­ing on you, par­tic­u­larly our fans. There’s no ques­tion the im­pli­ca­tion in­volved in any in­frac­tion shines on us all.”


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