FRISCO, Texas – As the Ezekiel Elliott rollercoaster rides continues to take its share of twists and turns, the Cowboys have to be prepared for Plan B.
And Plan C, as well.
While Elliott is currently on the Reserve/Suspended list by the NFL and, as of Monday evening, scheduled to start his six-game suspension, the Cowboys can't say they haven't been prepared for the situation.
All season long, they have kept four running backs on the roster, including fullback Keith Smith and a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, who has not been on the game-day roster all year.
"Obviously that's why we have them," Cowboys VP and director of player personnel Stephen Jones said. "We've kept four running backs for this very reason. We think running the football is a big part of our DNA of what we are as a football team. Whether Zeke's in there or another running back, we want to run the ball with success."
And the Cowboys didn't just keep any backs, but a couple of established players who aren't strangers to running with success.
"Alfred was a (two-time) Pro Bowler with the Redskins. And he's shown flashes of what he can do this year when he gets even limited opportunities so far," Jones said of Morris. "Darren McFadden was a top 5 pick in the draft. We all certainly know him well. He rushed for 1,100 yards in 12 games a couple of years ago. We feel really good about that."
Don't forget about Rod Smith, the older brother of linebacker Jaylon Smith, who gives the Cowboys some versatility as a blocker, pass-catcher and even a tailback in some situations. He's also one of the team's more dependable special teams players.
"We are long there. We usually keep three running backs and a fullback," Stephen Jones said. "This year we decided to keep four backs. We really like what we have there if Zeke has to miss any games."
As of now, Elliott looks set to start his suspension on Sunday. However, that all could change. According to reports, the NFLPA on Elliott's behalf is seeking a re-hearing of the suspension case after a panel of judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Thursday to remove the injunction that had kept Elliott on the field.
Monday afternoon, reports surfaced that the NFLPA also plans to file for another injunction through the Southern District of New York that, if granted, would restore Elliott's eligibility.
But if Elliott's suspension holds, the cupboard won't exactly be bare at running back when the team travels to face the 49ers on Sunday. The Cowboys have certainly made sure of that.