OXNARD, Calif. — With Ezekiel Elliott’s contract with no guaranteed money beyond 2022, many are wondering if this is his final year with the Dallas Cowboys.
Elliott is not one to wonder.
“I think it’s a big season, but I don’t think you can look too far ahead,” Elliott said. “I think if I focus on each day, if I focus on having a good day at camp, if I focus on making it week after week, it will all take care of itself. And I don’t think there’s really a reason to look that far away. I think if I do my business every day then I’ll be in a pretty good position at the end of the season.
Elliott’s base salary of $12.4 million is fully guaranteed under the $90 million extension he signed in 2019. The Cowboys have an easier financial path to get away from him in 2023 since his contract no longer includes guaranteed money. In 2023 he is expected to earn $10.9 million.
Elliott’s rushing average per game has declined every season, from 108.7 yards per game in 2016, his rookie year, to 58.9 in 2021.
A major reason for last year’s fall was a partial hamstring tear in his right knee, which he sustained in the fourth game of the season. Elliott was pacing for more than 1,500 yards with five touchdowns in the first five games last season. In his last 12 games, he has surpassed 69 yards just once, finishing for 1,002 yards and 10 touchdowns on 237 carries.
For over a month he wore a bulky brace on his knee for added protection as the injury limited his outburst.
“It’s definitely been frustrating, and certain parts of the year have definitely been frustrating, but it’s football,” Elliott said. “I think today might be the only day everyone will be 100%. Everyone’s going to have a few bumps and bruises from now on and nobody’s going to be 100, so I’m just trying to do whatever I can do off the field to make sure I stay healthy and ready for Sundays.”
Elliott never considered missing a game. He has only missed one game in his career due to injury.
“High on the list of his redeeming qualities and there are a lot of players in the league who sit down when things aren’t right. That’s not Zeke,” said Executive Vice President Stephen Jones. “He wants to be out there for his team, his teammates and I admire the hell of it and what 21 is about. One thing is certain: we will be at our best every week for 21 weeks. And he’s a great footballer.”
Elliott admitted some concerns the knee wasn’t healing fast enough after the season ended, but surgery was never an option.
“I was a little apprehensive early in the season, like, ‘Damn, this thing still feels a little iffy,'” Elliott said. “But I’ll say probably a month or two in the off-season, a month or two to get back to work, and I’ll say I was probably 100 again by the time the OTAs came.”
Elliott was able to work with his personal trainer Josh Hicks ahead of training camp.
“It’s tough being injured and feeling like you’ve lost a step,” Elliott said. “So it definitely helped me move back at the speed I was used to and brought that confidence back to me — back to my body, back to my mind, that I could make those cuts.”
In Elliott and Tony Pollard, the Cowboys believe they have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL. Pollard had a career-high 719 yards on 130 carries last year. He also caught 39 passes for 337 yards, which has led some to call for a fairer touch split.
Pollard and Elliott could see more action on the field together this year as the Cowboys look to replace some of receiver Amari Cooper’s production in different ways. But Elliott will remain a key figure.
“Zeke Elliott is one of our rocks on this team,” McCarthy said. “He’s a key player. The communication, his ability to do all the extra little things, and of course those are things that I can look at and partake in. The extra work he does before practice, after practice, on Tuesdays, I mean he’s at the quarterback meetings in the mornings. The physical part of it – he overcame a lot to play and I think that speaks volumes about him and you need those types of individuals to win championships.
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34304121/dallas-cowboys-ezekiel-elliott-not-feeling-pressure-contract-future-team Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott not feeling pressure over contract, future with team