For months, Jerry Jones insisted that the Ezekiel Elliott domestic-violence allegations were of the move-it-along, nothing-to-see-here variety. However, now that the NFL has indicated otherwise – the league suspended Elliott for the first six games of the 2017 season – Jones has kept a low-profile.
“Because he’s really upset about this,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He was really mad about it. I was out there on Friday when the news came down, and they went on lockdown. Every year, Jerry Jones is very gracious and he will host a media party at an L.A. restaurant for those members of the media who have been covering this team, and I was fortunate enough to go. Every year he’ll sit there and talk to us, and it’s always off the record. Jerry Jones elected not to go this year, which was stunning because he always goes and makes an appearance. He’s very decent and gracious about it. And he elected not to go this time because he didn’t want to talk about this and he knew the question that was going to be asked over and over again.”
Make that several questions – and none of the answers would have reflected well on Jones, Elliott, or the Cowboys.
“He’s just not ready to talk about this yet because I don’t know if he knows just yet how they’re going to go about and attack this,” Engel said. “I just know this: He is livid at the six-game suspension. He said publicly that he didn’t think anything was coming, that he had seen everything – and by everything he had seen, there was no indication that anything Ezekiel Elliott had done merited a suspension. The NFL felt dramatically different about that.”
Indeed, Elliott’s ex-girlfriend accused Elliott of abusing her three times over a five-day period in July 2016. She also had photos to back up her claims.
It seems that Jones could have accessed the same evidence that the NFL did, no?
“Yeah, I absolutely believe that,” Engel said. “Now did he? I don’t know. Did he just believe what he wanted to hear? I can believe that. Jerry Jones, the man’s got a lot of strengths, but really one of his biggest flaws – and I think this is kind of in the eye of the beholder – is he will defend a player to the death. He will defend a player to the most extreme circumstances. That breeds a lot of loyalty amongst his players because they always know that he will have their backs. Now the cynic will sit there and say, ‘The only reason he has their backs is they’re good at football.’ Yeah, that’s true. But Jerry will sit there and defend most people if you give him the opportunity.
“So will I sit there and think Jerry had access to all of Ezekiel Elliott’s off-the-field transgressions that were made available to the NFL? Yeah,” Engel continued. “Did he look at all of them? I don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t. Did he believe what he wanted to believe? Yeah, I could certainly buy that.”
While Elliott is most responsible for his situation, the NFL’s recent past didn’t leave much leeway.
“I think at the end of the day what the NFL did and what Roger Goddell did was make the decision to say a), we believe the victim, b) Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t terribly cooperative with us, nor did he supply really good answers as to the allegations made by his ex-girlfriend, and c) I think more than anything else, they’re not going to get Ray Rice again,” Engel said. “They’re not going to take the chance. So they will act with extreme prejudice even if all of the evidence doesn’t necessarily add up. And because of the poorly phrase by-laws as agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement by the players’ association in the NFL, they gave Goodell all of the power and authority to make these decisions. So while Ezekiel Elliott ultimately is responsible for putting himself in these positions, the NFLPA and its membership bears some burden of responsibility for enabling this guy.”