Friday's NFL: Cowboys preparing to play without Ezekiel Elliott

Detroit News wire services
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott'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.

Arlington, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he’s operating under the assumption that Ezekiel Elliott will miss regular-season games because of a holdout, but doesn’t think his star running back will be absent for all of them.

The Cowboys passed the most significant benchmark in Elliott’s absence so far with their preseason finale, a 17-15 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday, the 35th day of a holdout that has covered training camp and all four exhibitions.

Elliott has two years remaining on his rookie contract but wants to be the NFL’s highest-paid running back after winning two rushing titles in his first three seasons. The fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft is due to make $3.9 million this season and $9.1 million in 2020.

“I’m operating as though right now he’s going to miss regular-season games,” Jones said after the loss to the Bucs. “My entire expectation for what we’re putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out and not having any training camp, that he’s going to miss games. I just accept that.”

The Cowboys go into their opener Sept. 8 against the New York Giants with high expectations after two NFC East titles in three years with quarterback Dak Prescott and Elliott, who now have an improving young defense to go with one of the NFL’s best offensive lines.

Jones isn’t letting Elliott’s absence damper those high hopes.

“No, he can’t and won’t miss them all,” Jones said. “We need Zeke. We’re a better team with Zeke, but we need to be able to win when we need to without players because of injuries, suspension or in this case, holdout.”

The first practice before the opener is Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean Elliott wouldn’t play if he’s not here by then.

The Cowboys experienced uncertainty over Elliott’s availability two years ago when he was fighting a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations in court. His last game before finally serving the ban, Elliott didn’t know he would get to play until two days before the game.

Coach Jason Garrett and the staff also believe Elliott has been staying in shape while spending most of the past month in Mexico.

“There’s no deadlines here with any of our contracts with our players,” Jones said. “Certainly no deadline here. We’ll be needing Zeke any time we can get him out there. So we don’t have deadlines here.”

The first two backs behind Elliott  rookie Tony Pollard and veteran Alfred Morris —didn’t play against the Buccaneers. Pollard, a fourth-round pick, had a strong preseason and is the starter. Morris was Elliott’s primary replacement during the suspension two years ago.

“Everybody knows who’s not here, but you still have to keep playing,” said receiver Michael Gallup, another starter who didn’t play against Tampa Bay. “We’re hoping to get him back. You know that’s not in our control.”

Dolphins make deals

Center-guard Evan Boehm was traded by the Colts to the Dolphins for a conditional 2020 draft pick.

Miami also traded a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to the Vikings for guard Danny Isidora, who made three starts in two seasons with Minnesota. Isidora was a three-year starter at the University of Miami.

Boehm, a fourth-year pro, has 13 career NFL starts. He was a fourth-round pick by the Cardinals in 2016..

Patriots land Bodine

The Patriots have acquired center Russell Bodine in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, according to ESPN. The Pats sent the Bills a 2020 sixth-round pick. This marks the third trade the Pats have made for an offensive lineman this week.

A fourth-round pick in 2014, Bodine has been a full-time starter in the NFL since his rookie season. Over the last five seasons, the 27-year-old has started 74 of 74 games.

Extra points

Pro Football Hall of Fame center Jim Langer died at the age of 71 at a Coon Rapids, Minnesota, hospital near his home of a sudden heart-related problem.

... Jets team president Neil Glat is “stepping down” from that role to transition to a senior advisor position.

... The Panthers placed kicker Graham Gano on injured reserve, and cut running back Cameron Artis-Payne and quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

... Raiders’ Rodney Hudson once again is the NFL’s highest-paid center after signing a three-year contract extension worth nearly $34 million.

... The Ravens cut wide receiver Michael Floyd and outside linebacker Shane Ray as among 11 players released.