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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Execs Fear NFL May Make Example of Elliott

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 29, 2019

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) walks off the field after NFL football practice in Frisco, Texas, Wednesday, May. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

The NFL has its magnifying glass out on Ezekiel Elliott, the Raiders are building a team designed to implode, and Pacman Jones' complicated career comes to an end. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

   

1. The third time isn't always the charm

Should the Cowboys be worried about Ezekiel Elliott?

The team doesn't seem to be. Yes, the star running back was involved in a minor tussle recently in Las Vegas for which he got handcuffed but not arrested. But Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones and owner Jerry Jones both said in recent interviews they aren't concerned.

It all seems kind of minor taken as an individual event. Or, at least, that's what I thought.

Two things have happened recently, though, that could change Elliott's status. First, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported that the NFL is likely to investigate the incident. What will the NFL find if it does investigate? Based on the initial reports of what happened, probably nothing more. Yet any time the league dives in for a deeper look at anything, who knows what will emerge?

The Las Vegas investigation is dicey on its own, but it is part of something perhaps even more concerning for Dallas.

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Last week, I noted that while Elliott didn't seem to understand that as a public figure, everyone will record everything he does, the Cowboys didn't have much to worry about. I heard back from several teams and league officials who said I got it wrong. These people weren't Elliott or Cowboys haters. In fact, each of them respects the job that Jerry Jones has done lately in running the Cowboys.

Still, they all believe the team should be—at the very least—mildly concerned about its star running back and that he could be a big problem.

"Zeke doesn't get it," one AFC East team official said, "and the Cowboys aren't correcting things to make sure Zeke does."

It's possible the Cowboys are trying and Elliott just isn't listening. If that's the case, then that's not good.

We've spoken here at 10-Point headquarters before about how Elliott doesn't seem to get it. Here we are again.

To recap a bit:

• Elliott's ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, accused him of domestic abuse, filing two police reports in July 2016 that said he assaulted her in a car and struck her multiple times over five days. The attorney's office decided not to pursue charges, citing "conflicting and inconsistent information." 

He was then caught on video pulling down a woman's shirt and exposing her breast during a St. Patrick's Day parade two years ago. There was no arrest or even a complaint from the woman, but Robinson reported the NFL still saw it as a violation of the personal conduct policy.

• Now, we have the confrontation at a Las Vegas music festival that prompted the police to handcuff Elliott while they investigated what happened before releasing Elliott. According to an interview with KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, the person involved received an apology from the running back, but "it didn't seem sincere at all."

It's not that this latest event was worse than the previous allegations and actions. It's that Elliott would put himself in that position in the first place. He should know better. And now, he has left himself at the discretion of a league whose track record in dispensing justice is mixed and has punished him before.

Even regarding Elliott, it appeared early on that neither his actions on St. Patrick's Day nor the domestic violence allegations would draw disciplinary action from the league.

Eventually, the NFL did suspend Elliott six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy after investigating the domestic violence accusation.

And many around the league think the NFL won't hesitate to try to teach Elliott a lesson. And yes, the NFL is in the lesson-teaching business. Don't think for a second it isn't.

Considering the specific incident, we'd still be surprised if it leads to any loss of playing time or money—this time.

If he doesn't listen and learn, however, there's going to be a next time. He may not be so lucky then.

     

2. Rock solid

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott #4 rolls out against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 12, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
John McCoy/Getty Images

On a more positive note for Dallas, quarterback Dak Prescott continues to impress almost everyone in the Cowboys organization. I've heard repeatedly from people inside the team how they've been struck by his professionalism and work ethic.

And in 2019, if there is one person you need to be reliable, it's the starting quarterback. Seems the Cowboys can rest easy they have a good one.

     

3. Exceptional exception?

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

You don't see many players come off a brutal injury and then become the MVP.

Carson Wentz may be one of the exceptions.

At least, that's what former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick thinks.

If someone as measured and knowledgeable about the game as Riddick says it, you pay attention. And he's not alone. Some teams I've spoken to believe this coming season is Wentz's time.

Wentz's last two seasons have ended early because of near-catastrophic injuries. A torn ACL sidelined him in 2017, and a stress fracture in his back did the same last season. But considering that he played in Eagles OTAs without a knee brace, Philadelphia fans can start to imagine what a fully healthy Wentz will do with a team that still may be the best in the NFC East.

    

4. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 9: Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots reacts with the Vince Lombardi trophy during the Boston Red Sox 2018 World Series championship ring ceremony before the Opening Day game against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 9, 2019 at Fen
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

It's unlikely Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will come out of retirement, but you can't blame the Patriots for dreaming of a Gronk return after tight end Ben Watson was recently suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy against PEDs.

The loss of Watson has left the team remarkably thin at the position. If the Patriots don't make a trade, Austin Seferian-Jenkins will likely start during Watson's absence. The other tight ends on the roster are as recognizable as the 42nd and 43rd Democratic candidates for president.

Makes you wonder if Bill Belichick and Co. dial up No. 87 once more?

     

5. Bad company

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Raiders signed offensive lineman Richie Incognito this week (as first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport). The agreement says a great deal about the NFL, and little of it is positive.

I can't help but wonder how a guy like Incognito gets a job but quarterback Colin Kaepernick cannot. I know what some people will say:

• Why is everything about Kaepernick?

• The signing of Incognito has nothing to do with Kaepernick.

Answers: It's not and it does.

Incognito has had his share of run-ins with the police. He was at the center of the Dolphins' bullying scandal and, in a separate offense, he allegedly rubbed a golf club against a woman's privates.

By any measure, Incognito has been a terrible NFL citizen. Still, he's been given multiple chances despite being a terrible NFL citizen.

Yet Kaepernick can't get a job because—and you'd be a fool to think otherwise—he peacefully protested social injustice. Agree with him or not, Kaepernick stood for a peaceful cause. Incognito has stood for little as an NFL player but disturbing the peace.

Put another way, bad guys are getting multiple chances and the good guy, the historically good guy, isn't.

     

6. Explosive Raiders

One last thing on the Raiders. The signing of Incognito means the Raiders will have one of the most, well, interesting locker rooms in the league. There's Antonio Brown (volatile personality), Vontaze Burfict (one of the NFL's great scoundrels) and Incognito (saying he's volatile is like saying this song isn't good).

That should make for a team that is either going to be really good or implode like a dying sun.

     

7. Reputations are hard to change

In announcing his retirement last week, Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke about how he used marijuana as a player for much of his career, as he told The Dan Patrick Show. He was praised by some for his honesty and for bringing attention to how some players use the drug to ease pain.

Long, though, was also criticized by some on Twitter who failed to see the irony of someone smoking pot as opposed to using alcohol, which I would argue has killed infinitely more people and been a plague on society. (But I digress.)

However, when cameras caught Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a beer-chugging contest with teammate David Bakhtiari, it elicited laughter among the social media masses. I laughed. Many others did, too.

It's ironic that we as a society appear more apt to demonize the use of a substance many have found to have a legitimate medical use while we backslap imbibing a substance that carries minimal health benefits but is more socially acceptable.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

    

8. Funny money

I've pretty much seen everything in the NFL, but never did I think I'd see the day when the Buccaneers and the Deepwater Horizon were mentioned in the same sentence.

But here we are.

The story, as reported by Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, notes that the Bucs tried to claim almost $20 million in compensation from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. How did something that happened more than 350 miles away affect the Bucs? It's complicated, but Florio takes you through the "logic." It's worth reading, and it will be interesting to see how the NFL reacts to it.

The NFL has always been willing to punish players for their misdeeds, but sometimes it's different in how it punishes owners and teams. We're not holding our breath it will change this time.

    

9. A complicated legacy

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 9:  Defensive back Adam Jones #24 of the Denver Broncos reacts to a call against  the Seattle Seahawks at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 9, 2018 in {Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Bart Young/Getty Images)
Bart Young/Getty Images

Adam Jones announced his retirement Friday. He was one of the most physically gifted players of his era. He was fast, tough and mean. He could cover well as a defensive back but was also a solid kick returner. In 12 years of play, he returned 192 punts and 125 kickoffs and scored five touchdowns.

His legacy, however, is about more than football. He was suspended the entire 2007 season after he was involved in a fight at a Las Vegas strip club (which precipitated a shooting at that same club). That followed a series of arrests and legal trouble in the years prior. As a result, Jones became a symbol of the NFL player run amok.

Much of the NFL's emphasis on disciplining players more harshly for off-field transgressions started with Jones. Fair or not.

And that is how Jones will mostly be remembered.

Fair or not.

     

10. On Bart Starr

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr (15) barks signals during Super Bowl I, a 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on January 15, 1970, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by James Flores/Getty Im
James Flores/Getty Images

By now, you've likely read a lot of the tributes for Packers quarterback Bart Starr. You can get a sense of what he was like: kind, professional and dedicated.

One of the best things I saw about Starr was this from ESPN's Mike Greenberg. The commentary captured the essence of Starr. He was part of a legendary team but may not have always gotten the respect he deserved as one of the true greats.

          

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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