Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a famously impatient man, says he’s ready to play the long game on holdout running back Ezekiel Elliott’s contract.
Jones was asked Thursday at the team’s training camp in Oxnard, California, about whether he has a timetable for getting the deal done, if there were a point of no turning back or a deadline as Elliott holds out.
“I don’t see it that way. I don’t see a point months into the season,” Jones told reporters (via DallasCowboys.com). “I don’t see a point. I’ve done it a lot more than these players have, I don’t want to seem trite or cavalier about it, but I have a little more patience about how things are going to get done and the necessity to have angst when you have it.”
Instead, the Cowboys will “just keep plugging along,” he said.
Of course, they’re plugging along right now without Elliott, one of the NFL’s best running backs. He reportedly is in Mexico training and staying in shape as he waits out a new contract.
Elliott is set to earn a base salary of $3.9 million for 2019, and the team last month picked up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract that will pay him $9.1 million for 2020.
He earned his second rushing title in three years with 1,434 yards on a league-high 304 carries with six touchdowns last season, while adding 77 receptions for 567 yards with three touchdowns.
Part of plugging along is plugging the hole Elliott’s absence creates in Dallas’ offense.
That, Jones said Thursday, was what signing free agent back Alfred Morris was about, filling the void not sending a negotiating message to Elliott.
Morris, 30, played with the Cowboys in 2016 and ’17 and rushed for 547 yards and a touchdown in 2017, a season in which Elliott missed six games because of an NFL-mandated suspension.
“You recognize Morris has made some big plays for us in Zeke’s absence. Morris did a good job, so you go get Morris,” Jones said. “In no way is it addressed towards, directing toward a negotiation stance, that’s not the point. What you should be doing is developing an offense. … We have to do this in case Zeke might not be here, period. Without a contract issue and we all know that can happen.”
Cowboys executive vice president and CEO Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett have fielded questions about their running back’s absence, insisting Dallas is focused only on the players who showed up to training camp.
“We are focused on the guys who are here,” Garrett said. “We’re not going to focus on the business of football.”
Stephen Jones said: “It’s going to do no good to address this situation every day, but we will be working on (a contract) behind the scenes.”
Meantime, Jerry Jones on Thursday said he is confident that Elliott is working hard in his conditioning, which adds to the Cowboys owner/GM’s calm about not if but when his star returns.
“Zeke is in my mind, very conscientious about his preparation to play,” Jones said. “I’m not even giving it a second thought to his conditioning which is part of his ability to step right in.
“All of that is very easy for my mind to deal with.”
The Cowboys open their preseason schedule Aug. 10 at the 49ers. Their regular-season opener is Sept. 8 at home against the Giants.