FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott practiced fully Wednesday for the first time since leaving the Dallas Cowboys for a lengthy — and ultimately unsuccessful — appeal of his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case.
The star running back will play in the opener at home against the New York Giants on Sunday night essentially because of the timing of arbitrator Harold Henderson's decision. Henderson backed the NFL process that concluded Elliott used physical force last summer against his girlfriend at the time in Ohio.
So the Cowboys move forward knowing they will have the 2016 NFL rushing leader in Week 1, but prepared that Elliott won't be back until Week 9 after that.
"We're excited for it, as we were preparing for any running back to go in there," said quarterback Dak Prescott, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after sharing a sensational debut season with his backfield mate
"Those other guys are ready. But it's good Zeke went in there. He had a great practice today. He's been great all week."
Elliott missed both practices last week to attend an appeal hearing that stretched over three days in New York. He was with the team during meetings Tuesday, but missed a walkthrough later in the day for a hearing in federal court over a temporary restraining order the NFL Players' Association is seeking on his behalf.
A federal judge is expected to rule Friday on Elliott's request, and more legal action is likely if Elliott loses.
There wasn't significant movement on the legal front before the close of business Wednesday, the day after a wild evening . Elliott's hearing started with the revelation that he would play in Week 1 and ended with his attorney announcing that the appeal had been denied.
Not long after the hearing, the NFL filed a lawsuit in New York seeking to have its punishment enforced by a federal judge. Prescott and coach Jason Garrett say the twists and turns aren't affecting Elliott's work.
"I think the biggest thing for all of us is to focus on what we need to do each and every day," Garrett said. "That's been a point that we've tried to emphasize to our team for a long, long time. We don't spend a lot of time on other stuff."
Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded in a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend. Prosecutors in Ohio didn't pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence.
The 22-year-old Elliott denied the allegations during the appeal hearing last week, testifying for hours over two days. A week later, he sat quietly for nearly 2 1/2 hours in U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant's courtroom in Sherman, about 65 miles north of Dallas.
"The moment he walks in there, he's locked in and football's the only thing that's on his mind," Prescott said. "I can tell you when he's in there and he's in the locker room or he's at practice or in that film room, none of the outside world is going through his head."
In many respects, the first full workday of the regular season for the Cowboys was just like training camp. Elliott practiced, and he didn't talk to reporters. He hasn't spoken publicly since reporting for camp in July.
"I can't say what he's thinking or how he's doing," Prescott said. "But I know he's being positive. He's optimistic. As I said, he's just doing a good job of moving forward and having a good attitude and good spirit when he comes to work."
Elliott just doesn't know if he'll get to go to work next week.
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