FRISCO, Texas – When Ezekiel Elliott went to sleep last night, he didn't think he'd wake up with a massive six-year contract extension from the Dallas Cowboys.
He couldn't sleep much, maybe an hour and a half. Then he got the call around 6 a.m.: The negotiations were finalized in the wee hours of the morning. His 40-day absence from the team was over.
"It took them a couple calls to wake me up," said the Pro Bowl running back, who had just returned from Cabo San Lucas, his training base during the holdout, on Tuesday evening.
By 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Elliott was back at The Star for the first time in weeks for meetings, walkthrough, his signature on the reported $90 million contract extension, and finally, practice.
The contract, which reportedly includes a running back record $50 million in guarantees, makes Elliott the highest paid player at his position.
Was that important to him?
"It was," he said.
"Because I believe I'm the best," he said.
That's hard to argue given Elliott's three-year credentials. He has led the NFL in rushing in two of his first three seasons with the Cowboys, and he still finished in the top 10 in 2017 despite serving a six-game suspension that he contested for a good portion of that season.
The reward came at a temporary price: He made the "super hard" decision to train away from his teammates the last five weeks while talks continued between the Cowboys and his agent, Rocky Arceneaux.
"Just not being there. Where I was, I was isolated," Elliott said. "I ate about the same food every day and things got old real quick. It was just mentally draining."
Elliott's teammates supported him throughout the process and gave him a warm welcome Wednesday. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and chief operating officer Stephen Jones were in New York for meetings Wednesday morning, but Elliott thanked them for making the deal happen.
Now, finally, it's back to football – just in time for Sunday's opener at AT&T Stadium against the New York Giants.
Wednesday's practice was Elliott's first team work since the mid-June minicamp. He and the team will monitor his work the rest of this week before making a decision on his role Sunday.
Elliott said he did his best to simulate game-like situations during his off-site training.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm excited to be back. I'm excited to be back on the field. I'm excited to go win some ballgames."