FRISCO, Texas – It's a funny contrast that, as his college team prepares to play its much-hyped season finale, Ezekiel Elliott is gearing up his first Thanksgiving game as a Cowboy.
Ask him about the holiday, and Elliott isn't bound to give you much insight. The rookie said Thursday that he doesn't have many memories of football on Thanksgiving. He also said that, while important, this week's game against Washington is just another matchup.
But for a rookie who has 223 carries for 1,102 yards so far this season, it will be interesting to see how Elliott maintains during the stretch run of the season – especially on short rest.
"You only get four days to recover. We just came off a very physical game, probably one of the most physical games of the season," he said. "I think it's important just to modify and just to make sure that you're doing it to stay fresh."
Elliott pounded against a fierce Baltimore front 25 times for 97 yards on Sunday. He might be just 21 years old, but he laughed when a reporter asked if he was still sore on Tuesday afternoon.
"Do you watch the games," he asked.
Still, it's not as if this is uncharted territory for Elliott. During his final two seasons at Ohio State, he racked up 562 total carries, for an average of 20 carries per game. It's a similar workload to what he's doing as a pro.
The obvious caveat is that, while the Buckeyes wrap up their regular season on Saturday, Elliott has six more games to go.
With all of that in mind, though, Elliott was quick to shoot down the idea of the oft-discussed "rookie wall." In his mind, the difficulty of playing a 16-game season is about much more than the physical workload.
[embeddedad0]"I don't believe in the rookie wall. I think it's more of a mental thing," he said. "I think if you're a mentally strong individual, then you know the rookie wall doesn't even sound right. If you take care of your body and you're strong mentally then you should be fine."
In all honesty, Elliott has more experience playing late into the year than most rookies. In 2014, Ohio State played 15 total games en route to the national championship – which the Buckeyes claimed at AT&T Stadium.
And the transition should be smoother in the NFL. Elliott himself pointed out that, as a professional player, he can afford to pay more attention to his recovery, especially given the four-day work week.
"I do pay more attention to it. Part of it is because I have more time and more resources," he said. "But you got to. It's a longer season. It's a more physical game. It's very important."
That last part is an understatement. As fantastic as Dak Prescott has been so far this season, the Cowboys' identity is based around Elliott's hard-nosed running style and his willingness to grind opponents down.
Don't for a second think that's lost on him – he points it out after every game. He said it again Tuesday, as the Cowboys gear up for a division rematch, against an opponent that held him to just 83 yards in Week 2.
"They are going to try to come out and match your physicality. They are going to be fresh early in the game," he said. "But there are not many teams that want to do that for four quarters and that's a mentality. There are not many teams that ask other teams to do that for four quarters and that's the type of team we are."
Tiring as it might be, Elliott prefers it that way. Asked if physicality is the type of football he prefers, he smiled.
"I think that's the championship style," he said. "I think championship teams all have that."