'A little jealous': Cowboys react to Ezekiel Elliott's Cabo San Lucas training camp hiatus
OXNARD, Calif. — Travis Frederick knows the place.
The same facility from which Elliott returned to Dallas for a December 2017 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Elliott totaled 118 yards from scrimmage in his return — 97 rushing yards and a touchdown — in the 21-12 Cowboys loss.
So excuse Frederick if he has no hard feelings toward Elliott for defecting to Cabo as the running back holds out for a contract extension.
“Not at all. I’m a little jealous that he’s in Cabo,” Frederick said Tuesday after the Cowboys’ fourth practice (second padded) of training camp. “You saw what happened last time he went to Cabo. He came back and he was really ready to go, in really great shape. I’ve been to where he goes in Cabo.
“He’s got a heck of a setup there, so I’m certainly not worried about him being in any bad shape when he comes back.”
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No question, Frederick and Elliott’s Cowboys teammates will welcome the league rushing titleholder back when player and team agree how to settle a deal on which Elliott has two years remaining.
“Obviously” they want to practice with Elliott as soon as they can, Frederick said. But “he’s got business to attend to” and knows Dallas’ system already. “I certainly understand the business aspect of it.”
So do the Cowboys.
Which is one reason why veteran running back Alfred Morris rejoined the team for practice Tuesday. Morris played for Dallas in 2016 and 2017. He was the Cowboys’ starting back during Elliott’s six-game suspension. After Day 4 of Elliott’s holdout, the Cowboys decided to send a message. They knew they might need running back depth anyway: Elliott’s four backups offer a combined six carries for 16 yards of NFL experience. Still, executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged Tuesday that the team would have “probably not as much” urgency to sign a player now if Elliott were present.
Head coach Jason Garrett’s message was direct.
“[Morris] was available to us,” Garrett said after practice. “Obviously, Zeke is not here.
“Obviously in Zeke’s absence there are plenty of reps for a guy like that to get, so we’ll ease him into practice the next few days.”
The pursuit of Morris happened both quickly and over time.
At 11 a.m. Monday, it was the Saints who called Morris to ask: Could he make a 12:20 flight to work out in New Orleans?
“I’m like, if I can get my cleats, yeah,” Morris told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “I’ll try my best, if I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I don’t.”
Morris made it to New Orleans and worked out for the Saints. He was discussing signing and underwent a physical. Then the Cowboys called his agents for the first time since the draft in April, when Dallas selected running backs in the fourth and seventh rounds. Dallas offered Morris, whom Garrett says they didn’t want to lose in 2018, a roster spot. He has a home in the Dallas area and knew the system. Though Morris felt “indifferent” which he signed with, he said, he prayed and felt he should choose the Cowboys. He arrived in Oxnard around 1:30 a.m.
“I decided to be obedient,” Morris said, “so I’m here.”
He brings with him two Pro Bowls (2013-14) as well as 5,931 yards and 34 touchdowns rushing since Washington drafted him in 2012. Morris will serve an example for the Cowboys’ rookie backs: In Morris’ rookie season, he rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Cowboys have given him no assurances he’ll maintain a roster spot alongside Elliott. But for now, management says, they’re happy he’s here. No need to speculate whether he’d be here if Elliott were.
“I don’t really live in those hypotheticals,” Garrett said. “This is the situation we’re in. Like I said before, we like Alfred Morris. We didn’t want him to leave the first time. So we had a chance to bring him back.
“We wanted to jump on that opportunity.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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