Zeke was not on Cowboys' plane to camp

Zeke was not on Cowboys' plane to camp

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OXNARD, Calif. -- Running back Ezekiel Elliott was not on the plane to Los Angeles with the majority of Dallas Cowboys teammates and coaches Thursday for the start of training camp in California.

That does not yet mean Elliott will be a no-show for training camp. Players have to be at the team's River Ridge Residence Inn setup by Friday morning in time for physicals and a conditioning test before they are considered late for camp and subject to a fine. The Cowboys' first practice is Saturday.

Upon arrival in Oxnard, Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith said he spoke to Elliott, but he did not discuss whether the running back would arrive by Friday's reporting time.

Smith said he did not think Elliott's absence could become a distraction. "We're a team, we're going to be together and I love the hell out of Zeke," Smith said.

Center Travis Frederick agreed with Smith's assessment that Elliott's potential absence from training camp would not be a distraction.

"To me, this game is a business. Everybody has to treat it as such," Frederick said. "I hold no hard feelings to anybody that is trying to do that and get the business done and protect their family. So for me, we are out here to work. We are going to work with the guys that we have. That is not a dig at anybody. That is how it works. Guys get hurt and you don't have them for practice. Guys get sick and you don't have them for practice. And some guys aren't here because they're working through some of the business portions. You just deal with what you have."

In 2016, Frederick signed a six-year contract extension during training camp. The Cowboys are hoping to finalize long-term deals with quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and Elliott if possible while in training camp, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones said there was no pecking order for whose deal needed to get done first.

Asked if signing his deal helped free him up, Frederick said, "It's different for everybody. Some people are more involved in it. Some people are less involved in it. I would say there is a little bit of relief. There's a lot of stress that builds there when you're in the last year of your contract. The way contracts work in the NFL, an injury could end your career at any time and you're not protected from that, so when you get a little bit of guaranteed money in a new contract, that definitely puts you more at ease and allows you to just go play a little bit.

"So getting those things done is helpful, but there's a been a track record of getting those deals done at training camp. As long as I can remember, somebody's got a deal done at training camp. So there's a pattern of behavior there. Usually those things occur at this time, and also this time is a time when guys aren't worried about all of that, because we're just out here practicing."

Rumors have persisted for most of the offseason that Elliott would sit out camp in hopes of getting a long-term contract extension, but he did not miss a day of the voluntary offseason program nor mandatory minicamp in June. He is under contract for two more years, set to make $3.85 million in 2019 and $9.09 million on the 2020 fifth-year option the team picked up in the spring.

Elliott's agent, Rocky Arceneaux, did not return messages seeking comment.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, coach Jason Garrett told reporters he expected Elliott to be on the plane.

If Elliott does not report, he would be subject to fines of $30,000 per day, while a missed preseason game would cost him roughly $226,000. If he does not report by Aug. 6, he would not earn an accrued season toward free agency.

The Cowboys and Arceneaux have had talks within the past two weeks regarding a deal, but sources have said nothing is close.

The Los Angeles Rams signed Todd Gurley to a lucrative extension last offseason after his third season, and Elliott would like to have the same in place.

 

Elliott has led the NFL in rushing in two of his first three seasons but missed six games in 2017 because of a suspension. He recently avoided penalty from the league under the personal conduct policy after an incident in Las Vegas. The Cowboys have supported Elliott through his off-field issues, and Stephen Jones said what happened in Las Vegas would not impact the negotiations.

The Cowboys have plenty of cap room to get a deal done, adding $5 million with the release of wide receiver Allen Hurns on Wednesday.

They have a history of getting extensions done with players during camp, with Tyron Smith and Frederick the most recent, and would like to finalize deals for Prescott, Cooper and potentially Elliott if possible.

For now, however, the Elliott Watch commences.

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