FRISCO, Texas – Through nearly a six-week holdout and an extensive, complex contract negotiation, there was never any doubt about the Cowboys’ appreciation for Ezekiel Elliott.
Proof: the t-shirt Elliott and Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones held up at the conclusion of Thursday’s press conference formally announcing the Pro Bowl running back’s new six-year extension.
Front: “Zeke Who?”
Back: “That’s Who!”
Laughter erupted inside a packed room here at The Star in Frisco. The shirt served its apparent purpose: It diffused any perceived tension between the two sides as Elliott skipped training camp in the hopes of expediting a new long-term deal.
(By the way, the shirt is now available for pre-order online, with all proceeds to be donated to The Salvation Army.)
It’s a reference, of course, to Jones’ “Zeke who?” quip last month to reporters when asked about rookie running back Tony Pollard’s impressive preseason play.
The quote was made purely in jest, and in full context, Jones went on to say that Pollard simply would be a strong complementary piece to Elliott once the team’s star rusher returned.
But Elliott’s agent, Rocky Arceneaux, had reportedly taken exception. Jones defended the comment a few days later, saying matter-of-factly, “I’ve earned the right to joke with Zeke.”
Thursday, both sides were all smiles. Elliott is now the highest-paid running back in NFL history. The Cowboys have arguably their best player back just in time for Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants.
“I know Jerry well enough, and so do y’all,” Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones told reporters. “He likes to kid and joke, and as he said, no one thinks more of Zeke than him.
“I get it with Rocky having a little fun, saying they were insulted. But as you can see, I don’t think there were any hard feelings over that.”
Elliott made a more serious gesture earlier in the press conference, announcing that he’ll donate $100,000 to The Salvation Army to help them build a new facility in the Dallas area. His past touchdown ‘donations’ to the annual Red Kettle Campaign have boosted the organization’s charitable efforts around the holidays.
He also thanked the Joneses for making the financial commitment as he looks “to remain here for the rest of my career.”
“I’m just really excited about this team. I’m really excited about what we’re going to do,” he said.
Jones called it “a milestone contract, but more importantly, it’s with a milestone person and player for the organization of the Dallas Cowboys.”
Fittingly, Thursday’s event ended with an unforgettable moment – and a few laughs.