Ezekiel Elliott's first training camp as a Dallas Cowboy is going just as one would've imagined when the Ohio State running back was selected with the fourth pick of the 2016 NFL draft. In the run-up to the Cowboys' first preseason game on Saturday night, he's been treated like any other rookie. He's been forced to sing in front of the team multiple times as he failed to satisfy Cowboys' veterans with his performance of the Ohio State alma mater. He's dealt with a minor hamstring injury and had to put up with media.
It's all been very normal, and that's what's been so weird. Because there's an elephant in the locker room.
Just weeks before Elliott showed up at camp in Oxnard, California he became the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Columbus, Ohio city attorney after his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic abuse in late July. Elliott denied the allegations to police and through his father Stacy, who's issued the only statement from the Elliott family on the matter. Witnesses, too, seemed to back up Elliott's version of the events that took place early on the morning of July 22, when Thompson summoned police to a restaurant parking lot in the midst of Elliott's 21st birthday celebration.
Thompson posted photos on Instagram of bruises she said Elliott inflicted on her and Elliott told Cowboys' personnel that he had text messages from Thompson showing that the whole thing was a set up, according to anonymous media reports. The whole thing was a huge mess, the team's new star being accused of something horrible before he'd even played a snap, just the thing a team like the Cowboys, which provided safe harbor for convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy during the 2015 season, didn't need.
And, as the Columbus city attorney is, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram , about to announce whether or not it has decided to interview Elliott, everybody decided to ignore what was going on.
Elliott, asked at his first press conference since Thompson's report about the accusations, repeated a statement/mantra three times. "I'm not going to comment on anything regarding any legal matters, but I'm glad to talk about football,” he said, again and again.
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D Magazine's Best of Dallas issue came out, and Elliott was on the cover accompanied by a glowing tribute to the man who will "make America's Team Great again." An apartment complex, formerly known as The Grove at White Rock, announced that it was changing its name to "The Zeke."
Elliott met Denzel Washington at a Cowboys practice and his jersey continued to outsell all other rookies in the NFL store. It's been like there's an agreement in place not to talk about it any more than is necessary.
If Elliott does have those text messages — Jerry Jones said at a press conference last week that the team has seen "nothing to contradict" anything Elliott's camp has claimed — and is cleared by the city attorney's office, maybe that will have been for the best.
If not, there may be some quick backpedaling. It would be bad news for football, for Elliott, for the team and for The Zeke at White Rock.