FRISCO, Texas — Having seen Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott win a preliminary injunction on Friday, blocking the NFL’s six-game suspension for violating the personal conduct policy, the league on Monday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
It’s not clear how quickly the appeal will be heard. If Judge Amos Mazzant’s decision is overturned, then Elliott’s suspension could go into effect immediately.
Elliott was eligible to play in Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, but without Judge Mazzant’s ruling he would have missed the next six games and not been able to return until Nov. 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The injunction likely means Elliott will be allowed to play this season, but the NFL could ask for an expedited hearing of the appeal.
The NFL is following a similar path it took in the “Deflategate,” case against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. After initially winning reprieve in the district court, a higher court affirmed the NFL’s four-game penalty but it came after the 2015 season and Brady sat out the first four games last season.
Elliott spoke for the first time since June after the Cowboys’ 19-3 season-opening win against the Giants and expressed relief that he would get, “a chance to prove my innocence and just happy that I’ll get to be with the guys for as long as permitted and not miss time and not having to be away from them.”
A former girlfriend accused Elliott of domestic violence on separate occasions in July 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. The city attorney’s office did not pursue charges against Elliott, citing inconsistent evidence. The NFL’s personal conduct policy does not require the same burden of proof for a player to be found in violation. The league said it had persuasive evidence Elliott committed violence against Tiffany Thompson on multiple occasions in levying the suspension.
Appeals officer Harold Henderson denied Elliott’s appeal, but Judge Mazzant blocked the penalty.
“Just kind of your name getting dragged through the mud,” Elliott said when asked what the hardest part has been. “It’s been 14 months. Just kind of being associated with that, that’s tough.”
Asked if the process has been unfair to him, Elliot did not want to comment further.
“I’ve kind of stopped worrying about it because it’s not in my hands,” Elliott said. “At this point I’m focused right now on being the running back I need to be for this team to be successful so we can accomplish what we want to and remaining focused to keep playing at a high level.”
Elliott said “it’s definitely been a tough last 14 months. At times it’s gotten so hard you start to lose faith.”
If Elliott’s suspension is put into effect, the Cowboys would go with Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith at running back. Morris served as Elliott’s backup Sunday, while McFadden was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career even though the Cowboys prepared him all summer to be Elliott’s replacement.