Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Nov 2017

Ezekiel Elliott Suspension is ON, Again

A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied Ezekiel Elliott‘s motion for an injunction blocking his suspension. It will start this Sunday against Atlanta, going through Week 15. Probably. This thing has changed so many times, I have whiplash.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 09 Nov 2017

44 comments, Last at 13 Nov 2017, 3:31pm by Richie


by t.d. :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:11pm

he ought to sue the hell out of them

by Harris :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:37pm

He did. He keeps losing.

by NYChem :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:47pm

sue who? You can't sue judges. Even though JJ may give it a try. Poor rich dude, who are we to refuse his wishes?
look, as a steelers fan who watched Ben get suspended for a quarter of a season when no charges were ever filed, i am sympathetic to this view, but at the end of the day, there are contracts between the players and NFL, and laws, and precedence, and judges who have to weigh arguments and verbiage and prior decisions, and we should have some faith in our system.
I hope the next CBA, there is some more equitable arbitrage system to deal with disputes between the owenership/league officials and the players. But such as it is? Well, if there are changes, wouldn't it render void the CBA in toto, and CBA's in general, anything written and agreed to could be brought up for jurisprudence at any time even after the prior agreement? Well then what's the point of the agreement?
I agree, Goodell should be fired. He should have been fired when he lied about the Ray Rice situation. He could have been fired then, with cause. Could have been fired during deflategate as well. But here we are, and at this point, the only reason we are still talking about it and Zeke ain't already serving his suspension, is that rich white dude JJ don't want his toy taken away...

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:09pm

The disciplinary process is unlikely to change in the next CBA, because the owners will demand a concession on the revenue split to get it, and the vast majority of players will logically conclude that only a tiny handful of the roughly 1800 players ever get caught in the Commissioner's web of punishment each year, so ther's no point in giving up real money to avoid it.

The wildebeests don't stop crossing the river because the crocs get a dozen every time they do.

by justanothersteve :: Sun, 11/12/2017 - 8:39pm

The wildebeests don't stop crossing the river because the crocs get a dozen every time they do.


by ChrisS :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:21pm

Jerry Jones is trying to block Goodel's contract extension because he is mad about this suspension. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/jerry-jones-reportedly-threatens-to-s...

by deus01 :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:38pm

And Goodell is apparently angry because he wasn't offered a guaranteed contract.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 6:42pm

Wow, I'm really not used to being on JJ's side on anything. His motives are just as selfish as always, but in this case, who cares?

by amin purshottam :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:57pm

I am sure he wasn’t mad about Brady’s suspension. Too bad Jerry!

by justanothersteve :: Sun, 11/12/2017 - 8:40pm

So either Goodell doesn't get his extension or JJ gets PO'ed. It's a win/win.

by jtr :: Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:12am

Be careful what you wish for. I don't know how much we will like the commish that JJ personally chooses if it comes to that. For instance, Jerry seems to want the NFL to go full Culture Wars and crack down on anthem protests, which I think will probably make the protest controversy bigger and bigger until it consumes the whole NFL.

by billprudden :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:43pm

In a year with no great teams, if this knocks Dal from the playoffs, Jerry's gonna explode. Seriously, the events of this week are merely the burning of the fuse.

by jklps :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:48pm

*** for now. I'll believe it when I see it.

(Not a Cowboys fan)

by Alexander :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 6:38pm

The law strikes again! Truly amazing how long he lasted.

by Cythammer :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 6:52pm

I just want the suspension to finally hold so I never have to hear about this whole saga ever again.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 8:27pm

Well, this is tiresome......

by PatsFan :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:00pm

And that's one reason why Brady ultimately stopped fighting -- to be able to take the suspension at a known, controlled time, rather than be suspended on short notice, possibly during the stretch drive.

by Mello :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:17pm

It's just beyond me. The supposed Land of the Free and an unabashed monopoly can railroad an employee for PR purposes. And most NFL fans and people in this country somehow cheer that on. And even our court system won't even let his case be heard without him and his teammates being irrevocably punished.

Not the first instance of this. The Brady case was even more ludicrous with the ignoring of even basic physics. It's just sad.

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 2:05pm

You are right, but here's the thing: if they allow the punishment to be applied before the trial, the trial is moot for obvious reasons; but if they stop the suspension until after the trial, the trial is also moot because we'll all be dead by the time it's over.

Bottom line, this is a league matter. I don't understand going to court because your employer is an arse hole. Players may not have a competitor they can work for, but they have a union. This is a matter for the union and league to work out, not for the courts IMO.

by jtr :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 9:19pm

Can we get a film room article on this legal battle? Lots of intricate strategy and technique at play.

by jds :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:19pm

Yeah, but the gif's are going to be extremely boring.

by Alternator :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 5:41pm

Steal them all from the Ace Attorney series.

Jerry Jones: OBJECTION!

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:36am

Of course you're joking, but in case anyone actually does want to understand the legal aspects, Steph Stradley's blog is a great resource. She's a criminal attorney. She's a fan of the Texans, but not a fan of the NFL disciplinary process. She started looking into the NFL process during the Saints suspension thing and continued to look at the investigations into Incognito and Brady.


by RobotBoy :: Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:28pm

Until today, I hadn't seen details from the brain autopsy of a certain deceased former football player.
'A cross section of a healthy 27-year-old brain looks robust, fleshy. This one was hollowed by boomerang-shaped caverns. [...] the youngest comparable example was a 46-year-old boxer. [...] Even some of the most famously diseased brains...from men who had died decades later, did not have such obvious signs of destruction when examined by the naked eye. [...] It was the most damage [the neuropathologist] had seen in anyone that age. [...] What made the brain extraordinary, for the purpose of science, was not just the extent of the damage, but its singular cause. Most brains with that kind of damage have sustained a lifetime of other problems, too, from strokes to other diseases, like Alzheimer’s.'
How could anyone under this barrage of information allow their children to play tackle football, or other contact sports? I had a decent amateur boxing career during which I sparred over a thousand rounds, easy.
To make football even relatively safer for the human brain would be to turn it into another sport.

by jtr :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 9:29am

To play devil's advocate just a little bit, Hernandez seems to have been a PCP abuser. His defense team even argued that he was hanging out with heavy PCP users the night of the murder. That stuff comes with its own damaging effects on the brain. I would bet that Hernandez's brain was in particularly bad shape for his age and playing experience because of the combined effects of drug use and full-contact football. I'm not saying tackle football is good for you or anything, I just think there's reason to think that Hernandez would be an exceptional case.

by Richie :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 4:05pm

Wasn't he also associated with gangs growing up? Some gangs have violent initiations and are involved in a lot of violence. It's possible he sustained brain injuries there as well.

Also, there is at least one study indicating that former NFL players live longer than the general population. I think football=bad is too simplistic of a view.


Of course, I'm not sure what this has to do with Ezekiel Elliott.

by GwillyGecko :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:06am

the league might be doing him a favor, since the only money hes going to lose is six rookie contract game checks, and hes going to be saved from 6 weeks of november-december footbal wear and tear on his body

by Richie :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 4:06pm

That's what I was thinking. Losing 6 games mid-season, not due to injury, may be beneficial to his long-term success.

Might be beneficial to the Cowboys as well, if they can remain competitive while he's out, and then have a fresh and healthy Elliott for the final 2 weeks plus playoffs.

by MC2 :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:30am

I am so sick of this story, and more generally, of Goodell's whole "Judge Judy" routine.

If the NFL is really worried about PR, I fail to grasp how turning every incident into a season-long legal drama is better than Tagliabue's old "sweep it under the rug" policy.

by mathesond :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 8:26am

well, I suppose the sweep it under the rug policy told players their actions wouldn't have any consequences, while the courtroom dramas lets the players know that their names will be in the press for all the wrong reasons, which could negatively impact their endorsement potential. Granted, those aren't league PR issues.

by Jerry :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 8:50am

I'm sure the NFL would be thrilled to go back to the "sweep it under the rug" days. But then stuff comes out, and the league is blasted for not taking the transgression seriously enough. (See, for example, Ray Rice.) So, while I won't argue that the NFL is handling these cases especially well, I appreciate that they pretty much can't win.

by sbond101 :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 12:35pm

There's something here that the NFL owners should really let sink into their heads; the league only get's blasted because it pretends to care that it's players are often awful. Every time you mention it, investigate it, allow a reporter to talk about it, say how much you care about it, you associate your brand with one of these things (domestic violence, child abuse, dog fighting, DUI, or whatever festival of awfulness an NFL player has gotten into). Every ESPN article on the will-they-wont-they Elliot situations damages the brand further, just like every article about trying to re-suspend Rice hurt the league. NFL fans don't want to hear about domestic violence, just like they don't want to watch protests, they want to watch a football game, and maybe some football-related human drama - That's It- .

The right response to all this crap is to say "blah, blah, blah, pending litigation..." and then suspend the guy for a season if he's actually convicted of something. When a Ray Rice type video comes out (a situation where the courts did nothing, but the average football fan thinks that's awful), you then decry the legal system, virtue-signal with some charitable support of victims. Bottom line Ray Rice was a bigger story because the NFL suspended him in the first place then it would have been if the NFL simply said "he didn't commit a crime so stop asking about it, by the way, here's $500k that shows how much we care about abused women, now lets watch some football". The fact that Ray Rice got away with punching a women in the face when there was readily available evidence is a problem that belongs to US courts/justice system, I can't understand why the NFL seems to want to make it their problem when they really don't have too. It's just such a self-inflicted PR wound that the NFL doesn't seem to be able to stop scratching, it's fascinating in a car-wreck like sense.

Tom Brady was really a different thing. I'm not sure what to make of why Goodell thought any of that was a good use of league resource (except to interject some excitement into the boring story that was the AFC at the time, though they had to know it was a bridge to far in the direction of WWE to really help them in the long term).

by Richie :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 4:09pm

" it's players are often awful. "

NFL players are arrested at a lower rate than the general population.


by dryheat :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 5:31pm

Yet probably higher than their tax bracket.

I really don't know that it's relevant, one way or the other, though.

by Richie :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 6:53pm

Tax bracket they grew up in is probably more relevant.

by dryheat :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 5:40pm

It seems to me that there's nothing wrong, and in fact it's a good thing, with a private enterprise maintaining a higher standard of conduct than "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt", or even "preponderance of evidence". Especially when witnesses have a tendency to get paid and stop co-operating.

I do not know what Elliot did or did not do. Forced to guess given the publicly-available, I'd say Elliot probably is not guilty of domestic violence. Unless I missed my guess, though, pulling down a woman's top in public is tantamount to sexual assault...or at least misconduct, which seems a suspend-able offense, if not an arrest-able one.

That said, Roger is directly responsible for the 3-ring circus that is the NFL these days, and he should have been summarily fired after Ray Rice.

by sbond101 :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 8:22pm

There are two reasons why I think the first part of this statement is a mistake.
The first is semi-political so I will truncate it except to say that - apart from the uniquely privileged legal position in the labour market (a collectively bargained labour contract, without the usual robust counterweight of a strong union) that the NFL enjoys - using standards besides beyond a reasonable doubt exposes you to massive litigation risk. That's why most employers only very conservatively enforce their employment standard - because when you fire with cause a 40yr old mother of two for employee theft and can't quite prove it, the win is a small severance, the loss is 10x that.
What's much more interesting to me is that from the NFL point it seems like a colossally stupid business decision to act in this way, because all it does is put the NFL and stuff people hate (domestic violence, DUI, Bullying, etc...) in the news together for longer than they would otherwise be, apparently without acting as a deterrent to future brand-damaging behavior by players. A great counter-example, when Hernandez was arrested for murder the Pats cut him, and then never spoke of it again except when under court order, that's how you protect your brand (if you can't simply manage not to hire people who will be accused of murder). It's also interesting that this counterproductive approach has come under great scrutiny by the owners not because dragging these issues through the news cycle damaging their collective brand and is pretty clearly costing them money, but because it's taking away the toy of an important owner (and appears to have done so one too many times before). I really can't wrap my head around that one. I guess I've never been rich enough to let my ego mean more than my wallet?

by Richie :: Sat, 11/11/2017 - 4:11am

I'm not sure what you're getting at.

by dryheat :: Sat, 11/11/2017 - 9:19pm

The employee fired for suspected theft is not the relevant comparison. The employee who is arrested for beating a woman, having the story of the arrest in the newspaper, and then said wife not co-operating with any investigation is more apt. If I'm the accused in that case, and my employee fires me, I really can't pull the "but I was never convicted" card.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sun, 11/12/2017 - 8:47am

When Goodell came to power circa 2006, I believe he had reasonably decent reasons for starting to take action against players who brought the league into disrepute. His decision was hugely influenced by the NBA commissioner bringing in dress code policy to smarten up basketball which was beginning to lose ratings and public interest due to the image of the players as thugs wearing "wifebeaters" etc, etc. Remember that the Bengals had had somethig like 11 players arrested in a year. It seems to me that while his decision seems unpopular it was in the league's interest that he proactively took that approach and cracked down.

Somewhere along the way he overstepped the mark, I don't know where that was or whether it was even just the world we live in changing but things have changed and I no longer think it's in the league interest for him to be doing this.

But even that isn't an easy solution. If you just leave it to the justice system there are still problems such as rich players being able to buy better lawyers than the state can prosecute them with or 'pay off' witnesses; domestic violence victims not wanting to testify or prosecute because if the player goes to jail they're going to be living in poverty. Note that as condemnatory as everybody is about Ray Rice, he is now married to the woman he assaulted. And finally different states have different laws. We saw that in the Greg Hardy case but it's also true in cases involving recreational drugs which are legal in some states and not others.

Of course any problems that do occur are hugely reflective of the society that America has become and people would prefer not to be faced by that. They'd much prefer to see the NFL (or baseball or NBA or whatever) as something they can switch on, on a Sunday and just be entertained by.

by Richie :: Mon, 11/13/2017 - 3:31pm

The Ray Rice is the perfect example of why I think that people blaming Goodell for everything are misguided. I feel like Ray Rice was one of the first times that people really got outraged about a Goodell decision. Well, the way he first handled Ray Rice is essentially the way everybody wants him to handle Elliott. But everybody was outraged that Goodell did nothing about Rice.

by andrew :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:34am

The court ruled it was an illegal motion.

In other news the cowboys announced the signing of free agent RB T. Toille Leikeze.

by morganja :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:53pm

I've been arguing for years now that when it comes to criminal acts, there should be no sanction by the league until there is a final guilty verdict by the court system.
What does it matter if someone plays through the trial process? If they are guilty, then more money for the victim.
The NFL and players can agree to a schedule of punishments for various crimes and classes of crimes to be applied after the final guilty verdict. If the career is over anyhow, so much the better.

As far as Jerry Jones, he is trying to put his crony on the throne. The problem is that Jerry Jones and some other chicken-hawk owners created the anthem issue in the first place by trying to turn patriotism into a cash flow.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 11/11/2017 - 11:42pm

It could have been worse -- he could have flipped off Trump's motorcade and been cut from the team.

There are bigger injustices than the NFL's discipline policy.