OAKLAND – It says a lot about Ezekiel Elliott that he could so thoroughly dominate the conversation after a game he did not play in – and a classic game, at that.
Mere moments after the Cowboys capped off an insane, improbable road win on Sunday night, the talk turned to Monday morning. After all, that's when their All-Pro running back can return to work for the final two weeks of the season.
"He'll be there tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
It's been six long weeks since Elliott lost his lengthy court battle against the NFL, forcing him to serve the six-game suspension the league gave him over allegations of domestic violence. The Cowboys struggled through three lopsided losses without him, before recovering to finish 3-3 during the time he was out of the lineup.
Fresh off a third-straight win that saw his offense claw for every yard, Dak Prescott confirmed the obvious fact that he'll be excited to have Elliott back alongside him in the backfield.
"We're going to believe in him when he comes back giving him the ball and him making people miss and getting those dirty 8-yard runs and eventually it turns into 15 yard, and you know the rest of it," Prescott said.
He won't actually take the field with Elliott, but few people could be more excited than Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. Going all the way back to July 2016, when allegations against Elliott first surfaced, Jones has been an adamant defender of his former first-round draft pick.
Jones reiterated on Sunday evening that, although Elliott has now served a six-game suspension, he has never been charged with any wrongdoing in the U.S. legal system. Having said that, he did allow that Elliott has had plenty of opportunity for personal growth in the last year.
"I know he's coming back with a resolve. He's the first to admit that he could have made some better decisions," Jones said. "I think he'll be better for this, and I hope that – like me – he will learn from his mistakes."
Jones said he has a meeting scheduled with Elliott on Monday morning at The Star, where he'll welcome him back to the fold. Elliott has reportedly undergone a strict training regimen during his six-weeks absence, and several players expressed confidence that he'll return to the team facility in better shape than when he left.
"That's our horse," said Dez Bryant. "He gives us that extra boost of joy because of his personality and who he is. He gets guys going with his attitude and his passion and love for the game."
Better yet: Elliott now returns to a Cowboys roster that is 8-6 and still alive in the wildcard hunt, thanks to Sunday's win against the Raiders. The odds are still somewhat long, with several teams ahead in the standings needing to lose to help the Cowboys' playoff odds.
But after six long weeks without him – not to mention months of exhausting uncertainty before that – the Cowboys have one of their best players back. With two games left to play, the fact that they're still in position for Elliott to help them is something they're thankful for.
"This has been a rough year for Zeke, and he'd be the first to say that he knows his fans have had an up and down with him here," Jones said. "Now we're back, we're together again and maybe we'll get a chance to really do something special. Maybe we can get in the playoffs."