NFL sus­pends El­liott 6 games

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

DAL­LAS — The NFL sus­pended 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 in July 2016 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.

El­liott, 22, 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.

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.”

In 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.

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.

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 also was in­volved in a bar fight in Dal­las a week be­fore

train­ing camp this year.

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).

Three Dal­las de­fen­sive ends will start the sea­son 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 (per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing 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/MICHAEL OWEN BAKER

Dal­las run­ning back Ezekiel El­liott talks to a fan af­ter prac­tice at train­ing camp in Ox­nard, Calif., on Fri­day. The NFL sus­pended him for the first six games of the sea­son for do­mes­tic abuse.

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