FRISCO, Texas — All indications with the Cowboys this week have pointed towards Ezekiel Elliott making his return to the field against the Packers. Elliott, of course, sat out against the Bears just before the bye week after suffering a knee sprain the week before.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday that he expects Elliott to play on Sunday, while head coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday morning the veteran running back would practice, though they would watch his reps.
As for Zeke himself? Not so fast.
"I'm not sure if I'm ready to go," Elliott said. "I just need to get some more reps to see where I'm at."
Now, maybe that was a bit of gamesmanship from a guy who has missed two career starts due to injury and is well known for wanting to be on the field and has played through injury before. Despite playing coy when asked if he would play, Elliott did say that there was urgency to play against the Packers even if it is cautious urgency.
"I would say there is urgency," he said. "But I think what is important is just making sure my knee is good and ready to go. I think that's a priority."
Elliott has played through injuries before in the past, including last season when he tore his PCL in the same right knee he injured against the Lions this season. Elliott admitted prior to this season that in doing that it limited his burst as the season wore on.
It sounds as if he and the Cowboys are taking a slightly more conservative approach this time around with eyes firmly planted on keeping him fresh and healthy for the second half of the season - and an extended playoff run.
"We're all on the same page. I think we all know the importance of just having me down the run and just being as healthy as possible down the run. There's no point of going out there and making it worse…We're worried about that second half of the season and the playoffs."
While going through the typical rehab drills during Wednesday's practice before joining the rest of the offense, Elliott did so with a brace around his knee similar to the one he wore last season except smaller.
Elliott admitted that wearing the brace has its hindrances, but again alluded to the idea of keeping him healthy and avoiding any further injury.
"It adds limitations," he said. "The biggest thing was keeping it secure and keeping it locked in and just preventing any more hyperextension or any more movement… It's definitely probably something different to get hit on [the brace.]"
Everything Elliott has done up until this point leans towards his playing against the Packers. The difference this time around is a more conservative and cautious approach in how he and the Cowboys decide to bring him back compared to previous years.
He practiced Wednesday and looked good, and by his own admission he'll practice on Thursday. Expect to see Elliott at Lambeau Field, it's just a different path to the same result.