PHILADELPHIA –After everything Ezekiel Elliott has been through off the field the last several months, he badly wanted to keep playing football into January.
Reality set in for Elliott and the Cowboys after Sunday's 6-0 road victory over the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The team finished the 2017 season with a winning record (9-7), but their hunt to get back to the postseason won't start for more than nine months.
With no playoffs upcoming, the players will clean out their lockers, complete exit interviews and start the offseason on Monday.
Elliott, unfortunately, was just getting started again. Back from a six-game suspension, he had hoped his return in the final two games would help the Cowboys get a wild-card spot. But the team's Christmas Eve loss to Seattle knocked them out of contention.
"I wish it would have ended differently," Elliott said. "I wish we were playing in the playoffs right now.
"But I'm happy to have everything behind me. I'm happy to move forward. I'm going to use it as fuel for next year."
Elliott's legal fight against the NFL over his suspension made national headlines all season long. Ultimately he served the full six games for violation of the league's personal conduct policy despite never being arrested or charged over a former girlfriend's allegations of domestic violence – accusations Elliott has consistently denied.
When he was on the field, Elliott looked like the running back that won the league's rushing title last season as a rookie.
This year, despite playing in only 10 games, he fell just 17 yards short of 1,000 (983) after rushing 27 times for 103 yards against the Eagles.
"I think I had a good season for the amount of games I played," Elliott said. "I wish I would have hit that thousand-yard mark today. Got close but didn't quite get there. But I definitely think I had a solid season."