Cowboys' Elliott set for debut as off-field questions linger
FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2016, file photo, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott takes the field with teammates before a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. Elliott has been cleared in a domestic violence investigation in Ohio and now turns his attention to something Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith didn't do, start an opener as a rookie. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, File)
FRISCO, Texas (AP) Days from his Dallas debut and cleared by prosecutors in Ohio in a domestic violence case, Ezekiel Elliott still had to answer questions Wednesday about conduct away from the field.
The same report citing insufficient evidence to support a woman's claims against him included documents that had a text exchange between the two indicating concern over Elliott passing a drug test.
The report was released less than two weeks after video surfaced of Elliott in a legal marijuana shop in Seattle, which led to admonishments from owner and general manager Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett.
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''I feel like there have been some damages done, but the past is the past,'' said Elliott, the fourth overall pick of the draft out of Ohio State. ''I'm focused on the now.''
Here's the now: Elliott is set to do something Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith didn't by starting the opener as a rookie running back for the Cowboys on Sunday against the New York Giants.
The last Dallas running back with that distinction is more trivia fodder than anything. It was Derrick Lassic in 1993, when Smith was holding out after helping the Cowboys win the Super Bowl following the 1992 season. The other two rookie starters for Dallas in their openers were Calvin Hill (1969) and Ron Springs (1979).
At the moment, though, Elliott is having a hard time outrunning distractions. His first training camp was clouded by the domestic violence investigation, although his father strongly denied the allegations in a statement the day they surfaced.
While the outcome of the investigation matched the claims from Elliott's representatives, the text exchange raised more doubts.
''Honestly I have no idea what you're talking about,'' Elliott said when asked about the texts. ''I haven't seen those.''
Elliott also said he was confident he had done nothing wrong.
''I'm a target, that's what I've realized from all of this,'' said Elliott, who rose to stardom in college with four rushing touchdowns when the Buckeyes won a national championship on the Cowboys' home field two years ago. ''I've got to conduct myself that way so I cannot have any distractions and I can just focus on ball.''
While the NFL's investigation into Elliott's domestic case continues, a league spokesman said any decisions about placing players in the drug program is up to an independent panel of medical advisers jointly approved by the NFL and the union.
Garrett brushed aside questions about Elliott's off-field issues.
''I know his commitment every day has been really, really good and he's learned quickly what we're asking him to do,'' Garrett said. ''Again, his focus, and our focus, is on the Giants.''
After the video from Seattle surfaced, Elliott apologized and said he realized he had made a mistake. But he wasn't much interested in talking about the domestic case a day after he was cleared.
''I want to talk about football,'' Elliott said. ''I want to talk about why I'm here.''
Elliott missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, but says he's healthy now. While he took just 14 snaps in one preseason game, he has no concerns about conditioning.
And the 21-year-old did acknowledge chatter in the running backs room Wednesday over the NFL's rookie rushing record – 1,808 by Eric Dickerson in 1983, 12 years before Elliott was born.
''That's something I do want to accomplish but it's not a priority,'' Elliott said. ''What is a priority is going out and winning ballgames every week.''
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