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NFL 2019: Elliott's holdout clouds high hopes for Cowboys

Thu Aug 22 12:09pm ET
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Jason Witten, Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Weber, Tony Pollard, Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throws a pass during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In this May 22, 2019 file photo Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) walks off the field after NFL football practice in Frisco, Texas. Elliott won't face criminal charges in Las Vegas stemming from a scuffle with a security guard at a music festival in May. Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, he and police concluded the results of an investigation "lacked prosecutorial merit." (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, file)

In this Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018 file photo, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL game in Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Cowboys have given young linebacker Jaylon Smith a new contract while the holdout by Pro Bowl running back Ezekiel Elliott nears a month since the team reported to training camp. Smiths extension was announced Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Jacobsohn, File)

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, center, celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Ezekiel Elliott has everything on hold for the Dallas Cowboys.

The running back's holdout clouds the expectations for a franchise longing to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the last of five championships nearly 25 years ago.

The Cowboys have a fourth-year quarterback already with two NFC East titles in Dak Prescott; a receiver ready to show what production for a full season looks like in Amari Cooper; and a defense with an established star in pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and two emerging ones in linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch.

Oh, and tight end Jason Witten came out of retirement in part because he thought the Cowboys could make the Super Bowl run that eluded him for 15 years before he tried broadcasting for a season.

Elliott's teammates believe their two-time NFL rushing champion will return before the opener Sept. 8 at home against the New York Giants. However, the point at which his absence really matters is now measured in days instead of weeks.

''My gosh, look what he's done in his time in the NFL,'' said Witten, the franchise leader in catches and yards receiving who is about to set the club mark with his 16th season. ''And you're not the same when someone like that's not on the field. No excuses. You've got to go find ways, different ways to do it.''

Elliott wants a new contract with two years remaining on the rookie deal signed after the Cowboys drafted him fourth overall in 2016. While Prescott was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year during their remarkable first season together, Dallas has an offense built around its primary runner.

The Cowboys were a .500 team when Elliott was suspended six games over domestic violence allegations in 2017. They lost three straight to teams that finished with winning records before three straight wins over losing teams.

''The game is certainly different when Zeke is behind us,'' said center Travis Frederick, who is back after missing last season with a nerve disorder. ''But it's our job to do what we do no matter what the situation is. I think that it probably changes things a little bit, makes all our jobs a little bit harder.''

Things to consider with the Cowboys seeking a second straight season with at least 10 wins for the first time since the last of six straight in 1996:


Rookie running back Tony Pollard, a fourth-round pick, was impressive early in the preseason. The Cowboys believed they were drafting a prototypical runner even though the speedy Pollard was mostly a kickoff returner and change-of-pace back at Memphis. Sure enough, his first professional touchdown was a 14-yard run on a cut inside to cap a 97-yard drive.

Alfred Morris, Elliott's primary replacement during the suspension two years ago, is back after signing early in training camp. Dallas drafted another back in Mike Weber Jr., from Elliott's alma mater of Ohio State.


Prescott is 32-16 and coming off his first playoff victory while trying to get past the divisional round after falling short twice. He led a franchise-record 11-game winning streak as a rookie after Tony Romo got hurt. The Packers won at the top-seeded Cowboys with a remarkable play by Aaron Rodgers to set up a winning field goal. The Dallas run defense had a letdown in last season's loss at the Rams.

''Each and every year you have confidence and you say this is the year, you say that we've got a great team,'' said Prescott, whose contract is also an issue, along with Cooper, with both in the final year of their rookie deals. ''But you looking around at this team, the roster that we have, the talent, the leaders that we have, it's to win and it's to win everything.''


Kellen Moore, who just turned 30, replaced Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator a year after retiring and becoming Prescott's position coach. Even in the preseason, the offense looks more imaginative. Randall Cobb, one of Rodgers' favorite targets during eight seasons in Green Bay, is the new slot receiver. He and Cooper are good mentors for promising second-year player Michael Gallup.


Lawrence (shoulder) and cornerback Byron Jones (hip) missed the offseason following surgeries but are expected to be ready by Week 1. Lawrence came off the physically unable to perform list in the fourth week of camp. Safety Xavier Woods has had a strong camp after Dallas decided not to pay big money for free agent Earl Thomas, who went to Baltimore.


Coach Jason Garrett is in the final year of his contract, just as he was five years ago coming off three straight 8-8 seasons that ended with losses that kept Dallas out of the playoffs. The Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014, won a wild-card game and lost to Green Bay in the divisional round. After another divisional loss last season, it might take a deeper run for another five-year deal for Garrett. ''I never really think about that,'' he said. ''I never thought about that as a player. I don't think about that as a coach.''

Player Notes
Travis Benjamin Aug 5 9:23am ET

San Francisco 49ers WR Travis Benjamin has opted out of the 2020 season.

From TheHuddle

Maxx Williams Aug 4 6:33pm ET

Arizona Cardinals TE Maxx Williams (undisclosed) passed his physical Tuesday, Aug. 4, and was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform list.

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D.J. Hayden Aug 4 6:33pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars DB D.J. Hayden (knee) passed his physical and was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Ukeme Eligwe Aug 4 6:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Las Vegas Raiders LB Ukeme Eligwe was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Allen Hurns Aug 4 6:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Miami Dolphins WR Allen Hurns was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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LeSean McCoy Aug 4 6:13pm ET

Updating previous stories, free-agent RB LeSean McCoy (Chiefs) officially signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Vincent Taylor Aug 4 6:03pm ET

Buffalo Bills DT Vincent Taylor was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Devontae Booker Aug 4 6:03pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Devontae Booker was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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P.J. Hall Aug 4 5:43pm ET

Updating a previous story, Las Vegas Raiders DT P.J. Hall was released after failing his physical with the Minnesota Vikings and the trade was nullified.

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Trenton Cannon Aug 4 5:23pm ET

New York Jets RB Trenton Cannon was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Ukeme Eligwe Aug 4 5:23pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders LB Ukeme Eligwe opted out of the 2020 season Tuesday, Aug. 4.

From TheHuddle

Mohamed Sanu Aug 4 5:13pm ET

New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (undisclosed) passed his physical and was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday, Aug. 4, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Sanu won't warrant much fantasy consideration heading into the season regardless of who is under center for the Patriots. He may become a streaming option later in the year.

From TheHuddle

P.J. Hall Aug 4 5:03pm ET

Oakland Raiders DT P.J. Hall (undisclosed) failed his physical with the Minnesota Vikings Tuesday, Aug. 4, and reverts back to the Raiders. They intend to cut him.

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Cordrea Tankersley Aug 4 4:43pm ET

Miami Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley was waived Tuesday, Aug. 4.

From TheHuddle

Jimmy Garoppolo Aug 4 4:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo provided an update on his knee Tuesday, Aug. 4, saying the difference has been night-and-day from last season and 'it's able to do whatever it needs to do.'

Fantasy Spin: Garoppolo didn't seem to be hindered too severely while guiding the Niners to the Super Bowl, and he has never provided much in terms of fantasy contributions via rushing yards. Perhaps an improved ability to scramble would help him cut back on last season's 13 interceptions. He should be viewed as a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2.

From TheHuddle

Allen Hurns Aug 4 4:13pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR Allen Hurns opted out of the 2020 season amid COVID-19 concerns Tuesday, Aug. 4, according to head coach Brian Flores.

Fantasy Spin: Hurns had been penciled in as the starter opposite DeVante Parker. Look for Preston Williams to play a larger following his surprising rookie season as an undrafted free agent.

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Matthew Stafford Aug 4 4:13pm ET

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford was removed from the COVID-19 list and placed back onto the active roster Tuesday, Aug. 4. His positive test for COVID-19 was determined to be a false-positive.

Fantasy Spin: Any concern over his status and availability for the regular season should be gone. He's a strong target as a low-end QB1.

From TheHuddle

Rashaad Penny Aug 4 2:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Tuesday, Aug. 4.

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Ben Roethlisberger Aug 4 1:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told ESPN reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala that his arm "feels really good" in a Zoom call on Tuesday. Roethlisberger missed almost all of the 2019 season after tearing three flexor tendons in his right elbow. The veteran quarterback also stated that he has thrown way more than usual during the offseason and is in tremendous shape entering his age-38 season. Many signs point to a revitalized Pittsburgh offense this season with Roethlisberger back under center, although there is at least some concern as he's entering his 17th NFL season and has a long injury history. That being said, he's still a huge upgrade on offense over Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges from a year ago. Draft Big Ben as an upside QB2 in fantasy drafts this month.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Ansah Aug 4 1:03pm ET

Free-agent DE Ziggy Ansah (Seahawks) is going through a physical and COVID-19 testing with the San Francisco 49ers Tuesday, Aug. 4.

From TheHuddle