FRISCO, Texas – Ezekiel Elliott became the highest-paid running back in NFL history when he signed a $90 million extension with the Cowboys two years ago.
Does he pay attention to outside critics who compare his carry total – 27 rushing attempts through two games this season – to the size of his contract?
"You hear it, but what really matters is what's going on in this building. They're not the ones signing the checks, they're not the ones sending the wires, so I don't think it matters," Elliott said with a laugh Thursday.
The six-year veteran is referring to his commitment toward team success, regardless of what his weekly workload looks like.
That's why he welcomes sharing carries with running back Tony Pollard, who has emerged as a dynamic complementary option in Kellen Moore's offense and an even more important threat as a runner or receiver while starting wideout Michael Gallup (calf) is on Reserve/Injured.
"It's a brotherhood. Every week we've all got the same goal, the same common goal and that's to go win football games. However we've got to do that, that's what we're going to have to do," Elliott said. "I'm happy to see Tony. I see the work he puts in. He's one of the hardest workers on the team and he's very talented. He deserves to go out there and play well."
Make no mistake, Elliott is still the starter and still a vital part of the offense, even if he's not getting 20-plus touches every game as he did earlier in his career.
In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys had a pass-heavy game plan to counter the Bucs loading the box against Elliott. The two-time rushing champ's biggest contributions were as a blocker, helping quarterback Dak Prescott attempt 58 passes and throw for 403 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-29 loss.
The offense saw more favorable run looks against the Chargers last Sunday, and Elliott and Pollard combined for 29 carries, 180 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 20-17 victory.
Through two games, Elliott has 27 carries for 104 yards and a TD. Pollard has 16 carries for 119 yards and a TD. Of Pollard's 119 yards, 109 were against the Chargers, when he had the hot hand in the rotation.
It's a combo that's working.
"We feed off each other. We keep each other fresh," Elliott said. "We want to see the best in each other. We do everything we can to push each other, to challenge each other, to make each other better, maybe if there's something I could help him that's going to help his game or something he can help me that's going to help my game. We just push each to become better players."
Back in training camp, head coach Mike McCarthy spoke about a big-picture view regarding Elliott's workload, ensuring the 26-year-old veteran is fresh in December and January, when the division title is typically decided.
That plan appears to be implemented here in late September.
Elliott's on board with it.
"I think it helps a lot just because we have different run styles," he said. "We're going to run different runs differently and the defense is going to have to fit those runs differently. So if they get
used to me pounding it for 10 plays and then TP comes in and they're used to fitting the runs that way.
"But TP is a faster, more shifty back, so he might fit a run a little different. It keeps the defense guessing. It switches it up. It's a change of pace, and as you guys saw, it works well."