ARLINGTON, Texas – Let Dez Bryant explain exactly what Ezekiel Elliott's return last Friday meant to the Dallas Cowboys.
"Standing ovation when he walked in that meeting room," Bryant said with a smile after Sunday's 28-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. "Because we need him. We know how much he means to this team."
A rollercoaster week of legal proceedings ended with good news Friday morning: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Elliott eligible to play in Week 9, just four days after a New York court reinstated his six-game NFL suspension. Elliott rushed to the Star in Frisco just in time for the Cowboys' practice of the week and said he spent Saturday watching "a lot of film" to catch up on the Chiefs.
It showed Sunday at AT&T Stadium as the Cowboys (5-3) earned a hard-fought win over one of the AFC's best teams.
Despite "a little rust" – the All-Pro running back was banned from The Star for most of the week due to his temporary suspension – Elliott rushed 27 times for 93 yards and a touchdown.
"Honestly I had no idea when I came in on Friday that I even had a chance to come in," Elliott said. "I really didn't know I was playing this weekend.
"I wouldn't say it was difficult, but I was just happy I was going to be out there. I was just happy that I was going to be able to go out there and play with those guys."
Elliott's value to the offense was most apparent on the opening drive of the second half, after the Chiefs had grabbed the momentum and the lead with 14 unanswered points.
He rushed 7 times for 33 yards on the Cowboys' 12-play, 75-yard drive and delivered a 2-yard touchdown to regain a 21-17 advantage. The Cowboys never trailed again.
Despite the short week, quarterback Dak Prescott saw the same approach and production from his second-year teammate.
"Zeke being Zeke," he said.
Elliott's legal proceedings aren't over. The Second Circuit granted him a brief administrative stay of the suspension that allowed him to play Sunday before his appeal is heard. The next ruling will again determine whether his suspension will remain blocked.[embeddedad0]
After the game, Elliott said he has the "same mentality" to continue fighting against the league's suspension for violating its personal conduct policy, first handed down in August despite Elliott never being criminally charged over domestic violence allegations by a former girlfriend. He has denied those accusations and remained focused on football throughout this process, thanking the Cowboys for their support along the way.
The Cowboys have faith in their running back depth comprising two former 1,000-yard rushers (Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden) and a talented young back (Rod Smith). But there's no question Elliott is a special talent and the engine for the offense.
"Zeke is our No. 1 weapon. You call it how it is," Bryant said. "That's our guy."