Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will formally contest his six-game suspension for personal conduct policy violations on Tuesday at an appeal hearing in New York City.
Elliott’s representatives will plead his case in front of former NFL executive Harold Henderson, who was appointed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the appeal. Henderson has full authority to decide whether to uphold, reduce or reverse Elliott’s suspension. Elliott is expected to personally attend the hearing.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones purportedly felt “blindsided” when the NFL opted to suspend his star player, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. However, Jones declined last Saturday to comment on Elliott’s appealing hearing.
“Well, I don’t want to speculate about that at all,” Jones said of the appeal hearing, according to the Star-Telegram. “I wouldn’t do ‘a what if’ on that. I’m afraid it would have some kind of meaning and I’ve been reluctant to comment anyway.”
At present, Elliott is slated to miss the first six games of the 2017 NFL season. If the suspension is partially or entirely upheld, Elliott and his legal team can either accept the penalty or challenge Henderson’s ruling in a lawsuit. In that instance, an injunction, if granted, would allow Elliott to play until his case can go to trial.
The NFL suspended Elliott earlier this month after a year-long investigation into allegations that he physically abused ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson on multiple occasions in July 2016. Elliott has repeatedly denied the allegations and maintained his innocence throughout the process. He was never arrested or charged with a crime.
“I am both surprised and disappointed by the NFL’s decision today, and I strongly disagree with the League’s findings,” Elliott said in a statement at the time.
However, NFL officials who reviewed evidence and consulted experts about the Elliott case determined there was “credible evidence” that the Cowboys star violated the league’s personal conduct policy. League rules mandate a six-game suspension for a first-time domestic violence offense. NFL officials can act regardless of whether a player was charged with a crime.
Elliott’s team will purportedly focus on the credibility of Thompson’s testimony to NFL investigators, the Star-Telegram reported.
Henderson is best known for handling similar suspension appeals for former Cowboys defensive lineman Greg Hardy, who had a 10-game suspension reduced to four games in 2015, and former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, whose indefinite suspension for child abuse was upheld in 2014.
Elliott made his preseason debut for the Cowboys on Aug. 26, rushing for 18 yards on six carries.