NEW YORK (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott got the green light from a judge Friday to play this weekend, although the long run through the courts by the Dallas Cowboys star over his six-game suspension is not done.
After a ruling by a federal appeals court in New York on Friday, coach Jason Garrett said the star running back would practice that day and play in Sunday’s home game against Kansas City.
“We’ll make sure he’s ready to go,” Garrett said. “Zeke’s a smart guy. He’s played a lot of football for us in a short period of time.”
Elliott’s status for games beyond Sunday will be decided by a three-judge panel, perhaps as early as next week.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told his radio show that the availability of a player such as Elliott based on what a court decides is a “new experience for us.”
The Elliott suspension has been weaving through the courts since he was ordered in August to serve the ban for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The suspension came after the NFL investigated his alleged use of force in the summer of 2016 against his girlfriend.
Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.
A federal appeals court in Texas last month tossed out his court challenge there, but the league’s request for a New York court to affirm that it had acted properly led to Judge Katherine Polk Failla ruling Monday that Elliott must begin his suspension.
An immediate appeal by the NFL Players Association to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan and a request that he be allowed to play Sunday won a one-game reprieve Friday from Circuit Judge Susan Carney with no comment on the merits of the union’s arguments.
In written arguments submitted to the 2nd Circuit Thursday, the league argued that the issues were bigger than a single player.
The league said the public, including NFL fans and victims of abuse, have a “strong interest” in seeing that penalties stemming from domestic abuse by NFL players are promptly investigated and that discipline is imposed in a timely manner.
It said “swift discipline” should not be manipulated by players and teams seeking to strategically time court challenges so that suspensions are served when they play weaker opponents or when an injury would already require a player to remain off the field.
Lawyers on both sides did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The players’ union said in court papers that Failla was the first judge to have “concluded that professional athletes with short career spans do not face irreparable harm” when suspensions are enforced before appeals options have been exhausted.
The NFL said roughly 100 players were suspended for approximately 500 games over the past season and a half.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady served a four-game suspension at the start of last season after delaying it a year through the courts. The 2nd Circuit ultimately ruled against the players’ union.
The Cowboys (4-3) are in second place in the NFC East. They take on a Chiefs team that is 6-2 and leads the AFC West.
Elliott is the league’s third-leading rusher and against Kansas City will be facing a team that has been vulnerable against the run. Elliott ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday in the Cowboys’ 33-19 win at Washington.
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