An arbitrator denied Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott’s allure of a six-game suspension at a domestic violence case Tuesday, but the 2016 NFL rushing champion will play in the opener due to the timing of the conclusion.
Elliott attorney Jeffrey Kessler told the judge close to the end of a nearly 2 1/2-hour hearing in federal court that Elliott’s suspension had been sustained by arbitrator Harold Henderson.
At the onset of the hearing, NFL lawyer Daniel Nash told the judge that it was “his understanding” that Elliott could play Sunday night against the New York Giants because the league did not need to rush the judge.
U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant stated he would rule on Elliott’s request for a temporary restraining order by Friday. If the petition is refused and no further legal action taken, Elliott’s suspension could begin in Week 2 in Denver. He would be eligible to return Nov. 5 against Kansas City.
“We’re very disappointed with Mr. Henderson’s inability to browse through league politics, and follow the signs, and, most of all, his (sic) conscience,” lawyers Frank Salzano and Scott Rosenblum said in a statement released following the hearing.
Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell following the team concluded that he had several physical confrontations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend. Prosecutors in Ohio did not pursue the case, citing contradictory evidence.
The 22-year-old Elliott denied the allegations in sworn testimony during an appeal hearing a week. He attended Tuesday’s hearing in Sherman, about 65 miles north of Dallas, sitting quietly in a suit and tie and facing away from the crowd and largely toward the judge.
The NFL Players’ Association sued in federal court on behalf of Elliott a week before Henderson even mastered, saying the appeal hearing was “fundamentally unfair” since the running back was prevented by facing his accuser in the Ohio case.
Kessler reiterated the majority of the NFLPA’s arguments before Mazzant, who pushed Nash for answers about the claim from Elliott’s legal team a co-lead investigator who questioned Thompson’s credibility was left from a crucial meeting with Goodell through the yearlong investigation.
According to the letter Elliott received informing him of this suspension last month, the NFL thought he used “physical force” three times in a period of five days at a Columbus, Ohio, apartment last July leading to injuries to Thompson’s face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees.
Prosecutors at Columbus decided about a year ago to not pursue the case in town where Elliott starred for Ohio State, but the NFL kept the investigation open. The team said its conclusions were based on photos, text messages and other digital evidence.
Kessler again questioned why Henderson didn’t let Thompson or Goodell to testify at the appeal hearing, as did Mazzant. The judge appeared sympathetic to Kessler’s claim that investigator Kia Roberts was kept out of the loop when believing that Elliott should not be suspended.
The NFLPA has blamed the exclusion of Roberts on NFL special counsel Lisa Friel, who had been hired as a result of changes three decades back in the private conduct policy which stiffened penalties in national circumstances.
The changes came after the league was sharply criticized for its handling of the case involving former Baltimore running back Ray Rice.
Nash countered that processes with the league’s investigation and the appeal had been “grounded in policy” throughout the labor handle the players.
“You can not second-guess that,” Nash told Mazzant.
Henderson has heard dozens of appeals, such as New Orleans running back Adrian Peterson’s in a child abuse case from Texas when Peterson was with Minnesota. Henderson denied Peterson’s appeal of a suspension, but a federal judge overturned Henderson’s judgment.
This past year, Elliott missed a large part of the preseason due to a hamstring injury before hurrying for 1,631 yards and helping the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. Dallas didn’t utilize Elliott in the first three preseason games but he had eight bits in 10 plays his only series in the finale against Oakland as the appeal case played out.
Coach Jason Garrett said Elliott returned to staff activities Saturday after attending the appeal hearing, which extended over three times. Garrett said he was expecting Elliott being at team meetings prior to Tuesday’s hearing.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has said the club was preparing like Elliott will be accessible Week 1.
NOTES: QB Kellen Moore was re-signed Tuesday after getting released on the first cut to the 53-man roster. Garrett has not indicated whether the sixth-year veteran or undrafted rookie Cooper Rush is going to be the backup. The Cowboys didn’t wish to expose Rush to waivers. … LB Mark Nzeocha was signed to the practice squad, replacing WR Brian Brown.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail