FRISCO, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott will get at least one more game before another court ruling in his fight against the NFL over a six-game suspension on domestic violence allegations.
Beyond that, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t sure.
They just know they could use their star running back over a four-game stretch that includes two division rivals (Washington and Philadelphia), a team tied for the best record in the AFC (Kansas City) and defending NFC champion Atlanta.
The Cowboys (3-3) don’t have the luxury of the fast start that carried them to the best record in the conference last season. That belongs to the NFC East-leading Eagles.
”I don’t like to think about playing ballgames without Zeke,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said after Sunday’s 40-10 win at San Francisco. ”We don’t need reminding. He’s an integral part to our team and he’d be an asset to anyone playing football.”
Elliott, last year’s NFL rushing champion as a rookie, had a career-high 219 yards from scrimmage against the 49ers. That included a season-high 147 yards rushing and a 72-yard touchdown on a screen pass. His three TDs tied a career best.
The 22-year-old Elliott was cleared for Sunday’s visit to the Redskins when a federal judge in New York turned down an NFL request for an expedited hearing on the latest attempt to stop the suspension by players’ union attorneys representing Elliott.
Elliott got his second temporary restraining order last week, clearing him to play against the 49ers. A hearing over a preliminary injunction that could keep him on the field the rest of the season was set for Oct. 30, a day after the Washington game.
After playing the Redskins, Dallas gets the Chiefs at home before visiting the Falcons. The difficult four-game run wraps up against the Eagles, the first of three straight at home in a span of 12 days.
”I felt like there was an approach that we were hungry,” tight end Jason Witten said of a team that had a losing record on its bye after finishing an NFC-best 13-3 last season. ”We’ve got to stay hungry. Certainly our margin’s still small. We’ve put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”
A few things are working in the Cowboys’ favor as the defending NFC East champs try to stay within range of Philadelphia.
The running game finally resembles last season after a sluggish start. Elliott had 85 yards in the fourth quarter of a 35-31 loss to Green Bay, his best quarter of the season, and the bye didn’t stop that momentum. He had two touchdowns in the first seven minutes against the 49ers.
The Cowboys have 265 yards rushing, their most in six years. They had their first 500-yard game (501) since 2015.
”We saw in the Packers game before the bye, the offense start clicking in the fourth quarter, and the running game starting to open up,” said Elliott, who entered Monday sixth in the NFL with 540 yards rushing. ”We definitely carried it over to this game.”
The Falcons and Chiefs are suddenly looking vulnerable, with Atlanta having lost three straight since a 3-0 start and the Chiefs on a two-game skid since being the NFL’s only undefeated team at 5-0.
Of course, plenty can change in two or three weeks – including Elliott’s status.
”There’s never a game that we look at say, `Boy, we got it all down,”’ coach Jason Garrett said Monday. ”The identity of the football team continues to grow as the season goes on. That’s important to us.”
BAILEY OUT: K Dan Bailey will miss at least a game after injuring his right groin during the San Francisco game. The Cowboys will work out several kickers Tuesday and figure to carry two because they don’t think the injury is serious enough to put Bailey on injured reserve. Safety Jeff Heath made two of three extra points against the 49ers, becoming the first non-kicker or punter to make multiple PATs in a game since Houston linebacker and current Green Bay GM Ted Thompson made four in 1980.
More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL