FRISCO, Texas – Nothing has come easy for Ezekiel Elliott this year. He contracted COVID-19 before even reporting to training camp. He's watched his offensive starters be taken out by injuries around him during the season. His individual statistics have dipped despite playing every game, and his team's record is even worse.
Now, he's suffering through a calf injury, but he has no plans on letting it affect his status and intention for the rest of the season. He suffered the injury at some point in the Baltimore game but mostly maintained his normal workload in Sunday's win in Cincinnati. He claims it bothered him when the offense went out there for the first time, but "into the second drive and the third drive I felt fine."
Given the nature of such injuries, it's possible that such discomfort will continue until the offseason.
"I think it might be something I have to manage for the rest of the season," Elliott said Wednesday. "Every day is a little bit different. It's a little bit stiff and sore. Every day I'll just have to work through it. Who knows how long I'll be dealing with it."
Still, Elliott's injury is minor compared to the ones suffered by his teammates on that side of the ball. Together, they were supposed to make up one of the league's most dynamic offenses.
"When you look at injuries we've had, from LC [La'el Collins] and Tyron [Smith], to Dak [Prescott], to Blake Jarwin, we've had a lot of guys that were going to be starters but aren't playing because of injuries."
Elliott doesn't plan on his name joining that list. He wants to play in games, even if his practices look a little different. Last week he was a limited participant, and Wednesday he said he also did some individual work with the athletic training staff, trying to increase his range of motion in preparation for Sunday's game.
Last Sunday, the Cowboys felt the feeling of victory for the first time in many weeks, and Elliott wants more.
"It would feel good to stack some success and stack some victories," he said.
But ultimately, the topics of effort and finish should yield obvious answers as long as the standings look the way they do.
"We have three games," Elliott stated. "We're still in it. We're not out of it. So these last three games are important. We want to win these three games so we can put ourselves in a position to win the division."
The window is still open for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs. But what if that window is closed in coming weeks by their NFC East competitors? Will their focus shift to trying to sustain momentum for next season?
That might be an organizational goal, but it's certainly not on Elliott's mind.
"I'm a competitor over everything," he said. "I'm not really trying to relate this year to next year. Every time we go out there we go out there to win a football game. I just think it's important for this group of men to finish the season strong and do our best to win football games."