Either Ezekiel Elliott is playing hardball or his feelings were hurt by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Per Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, the disgruntled Pro Bowl running back has returned to Cabo San Lucas to continue training and, by association, extend his contractual holdout.
If true, this is something of an about-face for Elliott — who’s now missed two preseason games and the entirety of training camp — after he was spotted Friday on a flight to Dallas. This was viewed as possible progress between the sides, which appeared to move closer to a new contract.
But Elliott is none too pleased with Jones, who threw shade at the two-time rushing champion following Saturday’s preseason victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
“Who? Now Zeke who?” Jones laughed to reporters, while in the next breath complimenting rookie backup running back Tony Pollard.
Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that his client was dismayed by Jones’ attempt at humor.
“I didn’t think it was funny and neither did Zeke – we actually thought it was disrespectful,” Arceneaux said.
The team’s 2016 first-round draft pick, Elliott is entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract, set to earn a modest $3.85 million in base salary for 2019. He’s threatened to sit out the entire regular season absent a new deal, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported earlier this month.
Schefter reported that Elliott trimmed his weight to the low 220s while working out in Cabo, ready to hit the ground running — figuratively and literally — upon putting pen to paper.
Elliott is pining to become the highest-paid back in NFL history after pacing the league with 4,048 rushing yards across three seasons.
Dallas is also negotiating extensions for walk-year starting quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, with the hope of locking down the trio before Week 1. The team’s brass, led by owner/general manager Jones, reportedly has submitted lucrative offers to each player.
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Romo Confident in Zeke Resolution
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo expressed optimism that Dallas will lock up Elliott and the record-seeking Prescott, whose price tag purportedly skyrocketed to $40 million annually.
When (not if) it’s finalized, Elliott may eclipse the four-year, $52.5 million contract Le’Veon Bell inked with the New York Jets in free agency. Bell’s pact includes $25 million fully guaranteed and can max out at $61 million in total value.
“These deals are gonna get done,” Romo said. “It’s a good problem for them to have. It means they’ve drafted well. It means they’re in a position where there’s young talent you want to have on the team. I think that everyone thinks it’s a negative. It just means you have a lot of good players. They’ll find a way to get this all done.”
Pollard as the RB1
As mentioned, Pollard, a rookie fourth-round pick, has shined in Elliott’s stead, taking the sting away from his absence. Starting for the second straight exhibiton game, Pollard led the Cowboys with 42 yards on five carries, scoring on a 14-yard first-quarter scamper. He also added a nine-yard reception in an outing that earned rave reviews from Jones, who hinted that Pollard and Zeke could soon share a field.
“What’s amazing for him is to come in here and he hadn’t done that much,” he said, per Watkins. “He knows exactly what to do and he knows how to do it. If he goes out there and he plays to that level he’s going to be (at) for the next several weeks, he’s going to be right in the middle of it early. That will really complement what we’re doing with Zeke, not replace that, I mean that, not replace it. Nobody is getting cute here, certainly be a great compliment to have a great running game where I can picture those guys (having) success at the same time out there really giving the defense some fits.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter @KelbermanNFL