New York — Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s half-season run from his six-game suspension ended Thursday when a federal appeals court refused to let him play while it considers his appeal.
A bespectacled Elliott in a suit and tie sat directly in front of a three-judge panel that considered a request from the NFL Players Association he be allowed to play. But the court issued an order in less than an hour disqualifying him from Sunday’s game at Atlanta. It appears he’ll miss all of November’s games since the court set a Dec. 1 hearing for oral arguments on the merits of the union’s appeal.
The suspension was ordered in August as discipline after the league investigated allegations he used force against his girlfriend in the summer of 2016. Elliott vehemently denied the allegations as recently as last week, saying he was not an abuser.
A federal appeals court last month tossed out his court challenge in Texas, but the league’s request for a New York court to affirm it had acted properly led a Manhattan judge to rule last month Elliott must begin his suspension.
After the union appealed, the lower-court decision was temporarily stayed, allowing Elliott to play last Sunday.
By Thursday’s ruling, Elliott had already left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, though he shook the hand of a person who shouted that he was a “huge fan” as Elliott raced down steps to a sport utility vehicle.
Although the league won the battle, the appeals judges took a few shots at the NFL for its handling of the suspension of a 22-year-old athlete who will be sidelined while he’s second in the league with 783 yards rushing and tied for the league lead with seven rushing touchdowns.
Circuit Judge Dennis Jacobs told Paul Clement, the NFL’s lawyer, he found it odd that the issue was “such a frantic emergency that it can’t wait another couple months.”
“This is not just about Elliott and the Cowboys,” Clement responded, noting that 100 players across the league had been suspended for a total of 500 games over the last two seasons.
The NFL did not comment on the court’s order, though it affirmed that the suspension was in place.
Elliott’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NFL expects a five-year contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell to be finalized soon, despite a threatened lawsuit by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. The extension would carry through 2024.
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