Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's holdout situation — perched in the purgatory between "Don't worry about it" and "Hey, maybe this is going to be a thing" for most of the offseason — is officially a thing. When the Cowboys wake up Friday morning, there's going to be nothing left between them, the New York Giants and their Sept. 8 regular-season opener, and Elliott, barring a wholly unforeseen turn of events today, still isn't going to be on the team.
Wednesday, it was clear that Elliott's ongoing refusal to report has taken a toll on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, both on his radio show and at the team kickoff luncheon.
"We have to be prepared to play without any given player," Jones said Wednesday on 105.3 The Fan, the official home of the longtime owner's ramblings. "That's just a given. That's not unusual business in the NFL. We've played without players for suspension, we've played without them for injury. It'll happen again this year. And we may very well play without a player that is not coming in on his contract. If that's the case, we'll just play. And we'll play well. We've got a really, I think, talented young team put together."
Elliott's absence might even be a good thing, Jones went on to say.
"Not at all. We've got a marathon here," Jones said in response to a question about whether he was worried about Elliott's fitness. "And we want Zeke when we get to the playoffs. We want Zeke when we're in the dog days of this season. As you well know, you have to plan your personnel, you have to manage a player the caliber of Zeke, as to what parts of the game you use him, how much rest you use him. And, so, a fresh Zeke as we got on into the season would be great."
Here's where we jump in and say that last year, the Cowboys won the NFC East by one game. Two years ago, they missed the playoffs by two games, and the year before that, they won the division and finished with the best record in the NFC by two games. In a 16-game NFL regular season, the margins are razor thin, regardless of how fresh Elliott is at the end of the season.
In 2017, Elliott missed six games in November and December because of suspension and came back fresh on Christmas Eve. It didn't matter, because the Cowboys didn't make the playoffs.
Jones sounded more confident about Elliott at the luncheon.
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“We’re missing one, but we’ll have him on the field. I’m not joking,” he told the crowd according to reporters at the event.
Later, Jones' son and fellow Cowboys executive Stephen Jones spoke for everyone when reporters asked for an update on any talks between the team and Elliott, who still has two years left on his rookie contract.
“It doesn’t do anybody any good to talk about it at this point. We’re just head down, working,” Jones said.
Maybe it would help if his dad would listen.