FRISCO, Texas – Given the amount of conversation about him, it feels like Ezekiel Elliott has been a member of the Dallas Cowboys for several years.
Yet despite all the talk and all the hype, Elliott remains a rookie who has yet to play a snap. And if that's an odd feeling for fans and media, imagine how frustrating the past three weeks have been for the man himself.
"You just have to look at the bigger picture," Elliott said Tuesday. "You don't want to do anything bad to a soft-tissue injury. Just waiting it out and waiting for my chance."
Elliott's chance has finally arrived, by all accounts. After a three-week layoff with a sore hamstring, the Cowboys are going to throw him into the fray for the third preseason game – a road trip against one of the most vaunted defenses in the NFL.
It might sound like a big stage for a debut, especially since the rookie has only been able to practice within the last week. But Elliott felt plenty confident Tuesday that he'll be ready to do what's asked of him.
"I think I've done a good job getting my mental reps while I was out," he said. I'm finally getting back and getting into the groove. I think I'm ready."
Ready for what, exactly? That's a great question, considering the circumstances at hand.
The third preseason game is often referred to as the "dress rehearsal," when veterans and starters get their biggest workload of the preseason before winding down ahead of the regular season.
But Elliott isn't a veteran, and he has also never appeared in an NFL game. With that in mind, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett gave a solid synopsis of what his plans are for Elliott when the ball is kicked at CenturyLink Field.
"What we try to do with the players who are playing in their first game is we have eight, 10, 12 plays – sometimes we go 15-to-20 plays with guys. So we'll have a plan for him, we'll talk about that over the next couple days," Garrett said.
"Typically with running backs we want to make sure they get a couple touches, throw them a couple passes, let them do different things – the things they're going to do in games. So again we'll have those specific discussions in the next couple days, and we'll come up with a good plan for him."
The specifics of the plan may change, but the overall tone sounds pretty clear. Elliott should expect to get some early work in against the Seahawks, but it doesn't sound like he'll play until halftime.
However it works out, it'll be far more than what Zeke has shown in recent weeks – which is to say it's better than nothing. One way or another, after the long and winding road from the draft, it sounds like "Zeke" will finally tote the rock in a Cowboys uniform.
"It's just exciting to finally be out there," he said. "Just ready. There's a lot of pressure in the situation I'm in. But I don't try to make too much of it. No one can expect more out of me than myself. I'm going to go out there and do what I do and play football and everything will work out."