OXNARD, Calif. — It wouldn’t be the Dallas Cowboys without a little drama.
Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys’ All-Pro running back, did not show up in time for his conditioning test on Friday in Oxnard, California. While there’s no real set time for when he has to arrive to training camp, Zeke Watch is ongoing. Elliott is “late” and, as a non-report, can be subject to fines under the guidelines of the CBA, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday.
But the question remains: When will he show up?
Efforts to reach Elliott’s representatives have been unsuccessful. The Cowboys had been under the impression the 24-year-old running back would be at camp because they were not told before flying out to California on Thursday he would not attend.
So does this non-report by Elliott turn into something along the lines of the holdout by Emmitt Smith in 1993 or is this Jeremy Mincey in 2015?
Everybody remembers Smith’s holdout. Nobody much remembers Mincey’s.
Mincey led the Cowboys in sacks in 2014 with six. He missed out on a $500,000 play-time escalator by 11 snaps in 2014. He needed to play 70% of the snaps, but played in 69. He missed the first three days of camp until the Cowboys agreed to increase his base salary from $1.5 million to $2 million.
Since Mincey’s minor holdout, the Cowboys have not had any contractual issues and it should be noted there might not be one with Elliott if he shows up before the first practice on Saturday.
Going back even farther, the Cowboys have not had to worry much about player absences during camp.
Considering the position they play, there is a connection between Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and Elliott.
The Cowboys were coming off their first of three 1990s Super Bowl wins in 1993. Smith had led the league in rushing with 1,713 yards and was set to make $465,000. The Cowboys lost their first two regular-season games without Smith, Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley threw his helmet through a locker room wall after the second loss and Smith was quickly signed to a four-year, $13.6 million deal.
There are many hoops that need to be jumped before the Elliott situation gets as contentious as Smith’s, but on Thursday the general reaction to the fourth-year running back not being on the team charter flight to California was, “no big deal.”
“We’re a team,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We’re going to be together, and I love the hell out of Zeke.”
Adam Schefter and Louis Riddick react to the news that Ezekiel Elliott was not among the Cowboys on the flight to training camp.
Elliott is not the only player to sit out thus far this season. Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Mike Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams did not show up for the start of their training camps.
Elliott might show up before the first practice on Saturday. He might show up before Aug. 6 in order to gain an accrued season toward free agency. Maybe he sits all of camp. Maybe he pulls a Le’Veon Bell and doesn’t show up at all, although that seems far-fetched at the moment.
During his absence, he runs the risk of being fined up to $40,000 a day and would lose a game check (about $226,000) for each preseason game he misses.
The Zeke Watch is on and only Elliott knows when it will end.