The Teflon Don Plays On

03 Nov, 2017

A federal appeals court granted the NFL Players Association a brief administrative stay in the Ezekiel Elliott case on Friday, reinstating the Dallas Cowboys running back’s eligibility for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.

The stay request approved by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only guarantees Elliott’s eligibility through Sunday, meaning he will be suspended again heading into Week 10 unless the court extends the stay. There’s a chance the 2nd Circuit could grant the union’s request for an emergency injunction next week. If it does so, Elliott would have his playing eligibility restored while the court reviews the NFLPA’s appeal of Elliott’s six-game suspension, according to NFL Network legal analyst Gabe Feldman.

The court has yet to schedule a hearing date for the NFLPA’s injunction request, but the expedited motion has been referred to the next available three-judge panel.

“Although it’s not a ruling on the merits, it’s still a huge victory for Elliott because it shows a willingness to do something that [U.S. District Court] Judge [Katherine] Failla wasn’t willing to do, and that’s allow him to play while this winds its way through the court,” Feldman, said.

Unless his lawyers manage to get the suspension lifted again, Elliott will miss the next six games after Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders before being eligible to play in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 24.

“If he wins the injunction, if he’s allowed to play pending the outcome of the appeal, it’s most likely he plays the rest of the season,” Feldman said. “We still have a long way to go. All we know for sure is he will play this Sunday, and there’s a possibility he will play the rest of the season, but everything is still in doubt until the three-judge panel hears the case.”

Elliott was not eligible to practice Wednesday or Thursday, but he will practice Friday in preparation for Sunday’s game, coach Jason Garrett told reporters. As NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported, the Cowboys were preparing as if Elliott would not play this week, with Alfred Morris set to start at running back.

“We’ll make sure he’s ready to go,” Garrett said. “I anticipate him playing this ball game. … He’s a smart guy, he knows our system, and he’ll pick up things quickly this week.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott in August after a year-long investigation into domestic violence allegations made against him by Tiffany Thompson, his former girlfriend. The NFL concluded he violated its personal conduct policy, which mandates a six-game suspension for a first-time domestic violence violation. Elliott, 22, was never charged and has denied wrongdoing.

The NFLPA’s lawsuit, which was filed on the same day Elliott’s appeal hearing ended, doesn’t try to undermine the factual conclusions from the NFL’s investigation — it challenges the process the league undertook to suspend Elliott, Feldman said. The NFL wants to enforce Elliott’s suspension this season and confirm Goodell’s authority to issue punishment based on “conduct detrimental” to the league as mandated in Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement.

It’s virtually the same argument the NFL deployed in ultimately successful appeals against Brady during Deflategate and Adrian Peterson after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault. The 2nd Circuit is the same court that made the final decision in the Brady case.

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