“We really didn’t address it at all,” Garrett said of the running back’s absence. “We talked to our team as if it were Day 1 and we [shared] what our expectations are, what they can expect from us and what we expect from them, what the schedules are and what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. That’s a big part of Day 1 from the team basis, a macro basis. We do that by unit — offense, defense and the kicking game and we do that by position. That’s really what we talked about as a team. Everyone is focused on what they need to do to be the best player, coach or staff member and that’s really what we try to emphasize.”
Elliott is holding out of training camp as he awaits a new contract. He is under contract through 2020 and is set to make $3.853 million this season and $9.09 million next season. The Cowboys and his agent have held negotiations but a deal is not close, a source tells ESPN. Each day Elliott misses he is subject to a fine of $40,000.
“He’s a professional,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “I’m sure he’s handling what he needs to handle as far as the football side goes. I’m sure he has his iPads and playbooks. I’m sure he’s doing that. But as far as I’m going, I’m just worried about the guys here.”
Brown said it is not his place to talk about a contract with Elliott. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who signed a five-year, $101 million deal in April that included $65 million guaranteed, did not have any advice for Elliott.
“Let Zeke handle his business and don’t ask me about another man’s business.”
During the opening walkthrough of camp Saturday, Darius Jackson took the first-team snaps in Elliott’s place. He is the only tailback on the roster with a carry in a regular-season game (six carries, 16 yards). The Cowboys selected Tony Pollard in the fourth round and Mike Weber in the seventh round of the draft. They also have Jordan Chunn, who spent last season on the practice squad.
“Obviously Zeke’s had a big workload and we all know that, but we’ve been patient and we’ve been ready,” Jackson said. “We got his back. We know he’s the man, but as always got his back and we’re ready for anything.”
Elliott has led the NFL in rushing in two of his three seasons, including 1,434 yards in 2018 on 304 carries. The Cowboys are 16-3 in regular-season games in which Elliott rushes for more than 100 yards.
“He’s a huge part of this football team. He has been since day one, minute one,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I’ve had a great relationship with Zeke over the years. He’s a smart football player, a great guy, the charisma that he brings for his football team. These things are tricky. It’s really hard. I’ve seen it over the course of my career. I thought what Jerry (Jones) said and Stephen (Jones) and how they approach it, these things happen. You go through them and hope it gets worked out soon. He’s certainly a guy we’re counting a lot on when he gets here.”
For now, he is not in Oxnard but the Cowboys are carrying on as if it is business as usual.