Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is under contract through 2020, is seeking an extension that surpasses Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley's four-year, $57.5 million deal.
The news comes after Jane Slater of NFL Network reported that Elliott was not on the team's flight from Dallas to Oxnard, California, the site of team training camp. However, camp doesn't begin until Friday, and Slater further mentioned that players have made their own way to California in the past.
Talks surrounding Elliott, his reported desire for an extension and potential plans to hold out have been rumbling for a few weeks. Of note, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, who previously wrote on July 15 that Elliott has "privately said that he will hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract," reported that the former Ohio State Buckeye was "believed to be making plans for a trip out of the country" as of July 20.
Robinson also tweeted on July 15 that Elliott "hasn't made a decision to hold out of Cowboys camp." However, he also wrote that Elliott was "absolutely thinking it through and definitely wants an extension in the works."
Elliott gained 2,001 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns in 15 games during the 2018 season. The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018.
A couple of Elliott's teammates weighed in on a potential absence, with both offering levels of support for the back.
"To me, this game is a business. Everybody has to treat it as such," center Travis Frederick told reporters Thursday.
"I hold no hard feelings to anybody that is trying to do that and get the business done and protect their family. So for me, we are out here to work. We are going to work with the guys that we have. That is not a dig at anybody. That is how it works. Guys get hurt and you don't have them for practice. Guys get sick and you don't have them for practice. And some guys aren't here because they working through some of the business portions. You just deal with what you have."
Linebacker Jaylon Smith also spoke.
"We're a team, we're going to be together and I love the hell out of Zeke," Smith said. The former Notre Dame star also said he talked to Elliott on Thursday but did not divulge to reporters whether he'd be at training camp in time.
Elliott isn't the only running back reportedly seeking a new deal in advance of training camp, as the Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon is sitting out in hopes of landing a new contract with the Bolts.
The Chargers have a dependable pass-catching back in Austin Ekeler (958 scrimmage yards, six touchdowns) in the event that Gordon holds out into the season, but the Cowboys' depth chart is more unproven sans Elliott in the event a contract dispute stretches into September a la Emmitt Smith in 1993.
Darius Jackson only has six career carries, and Tony Pollard and Mike Weber are both rookies. The offensive line is potent, especially with the return of Frederick, but the backups are still unproven.
Elliott hasn't missed a minute of camp yet, so this could all be for nothing.