LOS ANGELES — A day after the Dallas Cowboys learned that they could be without Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games of the season, they expressed support for their teammate, but the perspective from Jason Witten comes from a different place.
As a child, Witten’s family was affected by domestic violence, and his foundation serves women and families that have been touched by it.
“Look, there’s no place for a man to put his hand on a woman, and most of you guys know that it’s a situation that’s affected my family as a kid, and I put a lot of work and attention and have a platform to step out and speak on stopping domestic violence,” Witten said after Saturday’s 13-10 preseason loss to the Los Angeles Rams. “Having said that, Zeke is continuing to work through it, and he’s talked about that. The game and all that stuff, that’s not what you deal with. He’s our teammate, and we’ll continue to work through it with him and have this opportunity to grow from it, and I think that’s what his focus is now.”
The NFL announced the suspension Friday after a 13-month investigation into allegations that Elliott engaged in physical violence against a former girlfriend in July 2016. Elliott will appeal the ruling. He made a statement via social media Friday but did not address reporters as he left the Coliseum with a member of the Cowboys’ security team.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team had a meeting about the situation, but Elliott did not address his teammates.
“We talked to our team about the situation and the importance of focusing on what we can control. We can’t control what the NFL does,” Garrett said. “It’s not my place to comment on whether I think it’s justified. We can’t control what the NFL hands down.”
Teammates were surprised at the length of the discipline, especially after owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on multiple occasions that he did not anticipate a suspension after seeing the information the NFL had.
“We are behind him 100 percent, regardless of what is going on,” running back Darren McFadden said. “The decision has been made. We are going to stand behind him. He is our brother. He is our teammate. We are going to miss having him out there.”
McFadden, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith will likely share the duties in Elliott’s absence. Two years ago, McFadden finished fourth in the NFL in rushing, despite not becoming the Cowboys’ lead back until the sixth game. Morris had three straight 1,000-yard seasons with the Washington Redskins from 2012-14.
“We have a lot of guys who can run the football and have been successful in this league,” All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said.
On Elliott’s spirits, McFadden said: “It’s a tough situation. He is dealing with it, but he’s taken it in stride right now. He is only going to get better from it.”
Witten and Elliott were workout partners during the offseason program and have grown close. Witten said he and Elliott have visited since the suspension was announced.
“There’s a lot of things there that I just don’t know,” Witten said. “I’ve heard what Mr. Jones has said, and I’ve looked at him as a mentor for 14 years, and I still think a lot of things that just don’t know. There’s a recent investigation that was dropped, too, so that’s something where you grab a teammate and you support him in ways. But that doesn’t mean you come off your standard of what you stand for. I’m confident in that because, you know, it’s been my life in a lot of ways. I don’t take that lightly.
“Quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable even having the conversation right now, but you go through it, and [you’re] in a position to be a leader, and you continue to show the way and allow guys to grow, and I know that’s been a tough year on him. I think that his mindset has been such what he’s said, what he’s already released, I think that that’s a pretty good perspective on what he’s trying to do moving forward.”