When the running back did not show up for the team’s chartered flight to Los Angeles on Thursday of last week, it was met with a shrug and a sign of no big deal by everybody with the team. After all, the reporting date was actually the following day and Elliott could show up by then.
When Elliott did not show up by the reporting day, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said it was all part of the process. The Joneses, Jerry and executive vice president Stephen, and coach Jason Garrett said the team would go on as if it is business as usual. After all, what would happen if Elliott was lost during the regular season for any amount of time?
“This is the air we breathe,” Jones said.
On Sunday, Jerry Jones told the local CBS affiliate in Dallas: “The point is, you don’t have to have a rushing champion to win a Super Bowl.”
He is right. Emmitt Smith was the first to win a rushing title and a Super Bowl in the same season. Smith ran for 1,713 yards in 1992 and the Cowboys crushed Buffalo 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. (Terrell Davis also led the league in rushing when the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1998.)
What Jones did not point out, however, is that he has not won a Super Bowl without a rushing champion. When the Cowboys won Super Bowls XXVIII and XXX in 1993 and ‘95, Smith was the NFL’s rushing champion.
Perhaps Elliott’s side was unaware of the owner’s comments, but their answer was to jet off to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to get away from everything. Elliott spent most of his six-game suspension in 2017 in Cabo, working out some of the time in an attempt to remain in shape. He was followed by a documentary crew but the final product has not been released as of yet.
The Cowboys’ response to the Mexican vacation on Monday was to add veteran Alfred Morris, who played for the club in 2016 and ’17 and took over as the starter during Elliott’s six-game suspension. During that span, Morris had a 27-carry, 127-yard, one-touchdown effort against his former team, the Washington Redskins.
“He’s a really good veteran player who we know and we really like,” Garrett said. “We wanted to keep him last year and he felt there was a better opportunity in San Francisco, so when we had the chance to bring him back, we thought it was a good thing for our team. Obviously in Zeke’s absence, there are plenty of reps for a guy like that to get, so we’ll ease him into practice here the next few days.”
But would the Cowboys have signed a veteran like Morris if Elliott was in Oxnard? Garrett did not want to deal with that hypothetical, but Stephen Jones did.
“We were going to look at something probably no matter what, but probably not as much,” Jones said. “Every time you’re missing a guy, you need to have a guy in there and it made sense to get a guy that we’re comfortable with.”
The exact whereabouts of Elliott and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux, does not matter — the phones still work in Mexico. The signing of Morris gives the Cowboys some protection if the Elliott saga continues into the regular season, like Smith’s holdout did in 1993.
And if Morris does not make the 53-man roster, it will cost the Cowboys only a $90,000 signing bonus.
“They didn’t give me any assurances but that doesn’t matter,” said Morris, who still has a house near the Cowboys’ facility in Frisco, Texas. “I’m Alfred. I’m going to come do what I have to do. I’m always going to show up, give my best. Whatever they do on the back end, that’s not my business.”
Practices go on like normal without Elliott. The running back is probably working out in Mexico, like he did while suspended in 2017.
“I’m a little jealous that he’s in Cabo,” center Travis Frederick said. “That’s a great place. You saw what happened the last time he went to Cabo. He came back and he was really ready to go, in really great shape. I’ve been to where he goes in Cabo. He’s got a heck of a setup down there. So I’m certainly not worried about him being in any bad shape coming back.”
The addition of Morris to the running back fold will not do much to move Elliott’s side closer to a deal. It is just a part of the dance.
A dance both sides want to lead.