FRISCO, Texas – For the second time this month and the third time this season, Ezekiel Elliott's six-game NFL suspension is in effect.
Monday marked Elliott's much-anticipated hearing in the Southern District Court of New York, where he had been granted a temporary restraining order on the suspension two weeks prior.
After a two-hour hearing on Monday evening, Judge Katherine Failla denied Elliott a preliminary injunction in his ongoing legal battle with the NFL. The decision calls for a 24-hour stay of the suspension, allowing Elliott and the NFL Players Association time to consider their options for appeal.
But the decision does in fact look likely to put Elliott on the sideline for the next six weeks.
Elliott will be eligible to return Dec. 17 against the Oakland Raiders. He is currently in line to miss games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers, Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
This decision is the latest among many turns in what has been a sprawling case since Elliott's suspension was first announced back in mid-August. The NFL concluded a 13-month investigation into allegations of domestic violence against the Pro Bowl running back, handing down a sentence of six games.
Elliott, who was never charged with a crime as a result of those allegations, filed an appeal with an NFL arbitrator which was subsequently denied.
Before that could happen, however, his legal team filed for a preliminary injunction in the nearby district of Sherman, Texas. From this point, the central talking point of the entire situation has not been about whether Elliott committed any wrongdoing – but the fairness and transparency of the NFL's disciplinary process.
"Zeke has in no way, by any standard in this country, done anything wrong," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Sunday evening. "He's done nothing wrong. The league has tried to say that he's done something that we disagree with. We all don't agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot and he deserves that."
The initial motion for a preliminary injunction was granted, giving Elliott the freedom to play in every game so far this season. Not to be outdone, though, the NFL appealed the ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Elliott's ability to play caused the league irreparable harm.
That injunction was eventually overturned by the Fifth Circuit, back during the Cowboys' bye week on Oct. 5. Following that decision, Elliott's legal team filed for a temporary restraining order in the Second Circuit. That was granted, buying Elliott two additional weeks to play before a formal hearing on another injunction.
That catches the story up to the present, where the Cowboys' star running back has once again been denied that injunction. It remains to be seen exactly what course Elliott will take from here. But with kickoff against the Kansas City Chiefs looming on Sunday, it looks possible that Elliott may have to begin serving his suspension, more than two months after initially receiving it.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett addressed the prospect of losing Elliott on Monday afternoon. Garrett has been consistent in his efforts not to dwell on the lingering issue too much, but he did acknowledge that his team has insured itself against such a loss by holding on to proven veterans like Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, as well as Rod Smith.
"We have some veteran running backs, we have some depth at that position," Garrett said. "It's not like we're just living this day and we don't think about the future at all — you have to do that."
That's not to say Elliott won't be missed, though. McFadden has been inactive in every game so far this season, while Morris and Smith have combined for just 23 carries and 174 yards.
After a bit of a slow start in the first three weeks of the season, Elliott has averaged 125 yards and one touchdown per game over the last month. In his most recent outing, he racked up 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 33 carries against Washington.