Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had his request for a temporary restraining order against a pending six-game NFL suspension granted Friday by United States district judge Amos L. Mazzant III in Texas.
The MMQB's Albert Breer first reported the news, and ESPN's Josina Anderson provided a copy of the judge's opinion:
Josina Anderson @JosinaAnderson
Breaking: #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has been granted on his request for a "preliminary injunction." https://t.co/CifzXvgnyi2017-9-8 22:19:36
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted that the judge could still move to dismiss Elliott's motion "based on the argument that it was filed prematurely." However, it's more likely for the judge to hold his ground.
The NFL issued a statement on the judge's decision, per Brian McCarthy of the league's PR office:
Brian McCarthy @NFLprguy
NFL statement on today's decision https://t.co/vVyLWgJRUV2017-9-8 23:15:29
ESPN's Adam Schefter also passed along a statement from the NFLPA:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Statement from NFLPA on Ezekiel Elliott ruling: https://t.co/rTJigd3UZD2017-9-8 22:36:11
Schefter also provided a statement from Elliott's attorneys:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Statement from Ezekiel Elliott's attorneys on today's ruling: https://t.co/ewF6b7DEMG2017-9-8 23:07:31
The decision by Mazzant will allow the Dallas running back to remain active until the legal process is complete.
Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann noted the next step will likely be seeking a preliminary injunction, which would provide more long-term protection for the playmaker as his lawsuit works through the system.
The NFL could respond by immediately challenging the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals and placing Elliott on the commissioner's exempt list in an attempt to prevent him from playing during the case, per McCann. Elliott and the NFL Players Association could fight the latter procedural move in court.
Ultimately, the TRO is merely the first step in what may become another extended legal battle similar to the one waged by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady following the Deflategate saga.
The NFL announced the six-game ban for Elliott in August after a year-long investigation into allegations of domestic violence by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson. The league sent a letter from commissioner Roger Goodell to the Cowboys star about the decision.
"The commissioner carefully considered the issues raised by the [NFL Players Association] on your behalf regarding witness credibility and alternative causation theories," the letter read. "However, in the commissioner's judgment, there has been no persuasive evidence presented on your behalf with respect to how Ms. Thompson's obvious injuries were incurred other than conjecture based on the presence of some of her bruising, which pre-dates your arrival in Columbus on July 16, 2016."
The 22-year-old Ohio State product posted a message on social media after the NFL's original ruling:
Ezekiel Elliott @EzekielElliott
In September 2016, the Columbus City Attorney's Office in Ohio confirmed it wouldn't pursue charges against Elliott in the case due to "conflicting and inconsistent information," per Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN.com.
Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last month during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan radio he supported the league's efforts against domestic violence but didn't think there was sufficient information to suspend Elliott, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com.
"On the other hand with what we are today and what we're trying to be relative to addressing it in the league, [it] has all kinds of issues—and it should," Jones said. "It's a very complicated issue because you have no evidence here. That's all I want to say about it."
Josh Levs of CNN noted a six-game suspension was listed as the baseline punishment for matters of domestic violence when the NFL rolled out a new personal conduct policy in 2014.
In addition, Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News reported the league could still investigate an alleged July bar altercation involving Elliott and impose further punishment.