Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continued to decline to comment on the six-game suspension of star running back Ezekiel Elliott for violating the personal conduct policy and his appeal hearing, set for Tuesday in New York.
Jones, who remains upset about the situation, did say he will not be present at the hearing, though the Cowboys will have legal counsel there.
Elliott, who made his preseason debut with 10 plays against the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, has been excused from practice Monday and Tuesday to fly to New York to prepare and attend the hearing in person.
Elliott continues to maintain his innocence of domestic violence allegations of a former girlfriend and Jones remains blindsided by the NFL’s decision to suspend his star player after promising there would be no discipline because he believes there was no evidence of domestic violence.
“Well, I don’t want to speculate about that at all,” Jones said of the appeal hearing. “I wouldn’t do ‘a what if’ on that. I’m afraid it would have some kind of meaning and I’ve been reluctant to comment anyway.”
Harold Henderson has been appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the appeal.
Henderson did reduce the domestic violence suspension for former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy from 10 games to four games in 2015.
However, he upheld the domestic family violence suspension of New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson, then with the Minnesota Vikings.
Asked if he felt Henderson would be neutral enough on the case to give Elliott hope, Jones avoided the answer.
“Harold is a really great friend of mine,” Jones said. “He was at my (Hall of Fame) party and so you weren’t at that party unless you were a good friend I promise you that.”
So is that yes?
“I don’t know,” Jones responded with a laugh. “But he is a friend and of course that’s the way it would be. He managed the management council for maybe 15 years I served on it. He’s very competent but the main thing is he’s a guy that I admire a lot. Former policeman, former attorney. He’s come through it the hard way. Literally.”
Jones did like what he saw from Elliott against the Raiders in what might be his last game with the team until after the suspension would be up in October.
No starter will play in the preseason finale against the Houston Texans on Thursday.
Elliott had six carries for 18 yards and caught two passes for 6 yards in one series of work.
“I thought he was just very impressive,” Jones said. “He’s worked hard. He’s practiced and in the classroom as well as on the field as though he were going to take every snap this year. So I thought he played to form. That’s an impressive group he’s playing against. I have a lot of respect for them. I thought it was good and I’m glad we got that kind of work in for him. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to give him 30 there for a minute.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett also said it was good to see Elliott play and it was an example of the hard work he puts in on the practice field.
Garrett, who plans for Elliott to be back with the team on Wednesday following the hearing, said the Cowboys have been preparing like he will be ready for the Sept. 10 season opener against the New York Giants.
“That’s the way we have prepared our team,” Garrett said. “He has done a really good job in practice getting ready for Week One. The other guys have gotten a lot of opportunities as well. Obviously they have gotten a lot more in the preseason games, they have worked with the ones, but we’ve tried to get him ready to play in Week One, understanding the appeal process will get underway.”
Darren McFadden will start for a suspended Elliott with Alfred Morris and Rod Smith backing him as part of a running back-by-committee approach.