The lens through which Malcolm Jenkins views the highly controversial Ezekiel Elliott situation is fascinating, and it does not align with how most Eagles fans see the ongoing saga of the superstar running back’s six-game suspension that remains stalled in the courts.
All sides agree that without Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys are not as good and not nearly as big a threat to the Eagles, who hold a 2 ½-game lead in the NFC East heading into Sunday. The disagreement is whether an Elliott suspension is a good thing or not. Jenkins would argue that it is not good for the league, and you have to remember that he is the Eagles’ representative to the players’ union and a product of Ohio State University, the same school that Elliott attended.
“I never want to see anybody going through what Zeke is going through, especially when there are no charges against him,” Jenkins said. “I don’t understand that.”
The fact that no charges have ever been filed against Elliott certainly complicates the matter. If the police are not willing to arrest him on domestic violence charges against his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson, then how can the NFL take away six weeks of the man’s pay?
The NFL did its own investigation and determined that Thompson was telling the truth when she accused Elliott of multiple instances of domestic violence in 2016, and it firmly believes there’s photographic evidence of the abuse. A prosecuting attorney in Columbus, Ohio, has told the league that he also thought the accusations against Elliott were true, but there was not enough evidence to file charges.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is obviously super sensitive to how he handles domestic violence accusations because of how he mishandled the case of Baltimore running back Ray Rice in the summer of 2014. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has accused Goodell of trying to overcompensate for his Rice mistake by enforcing the six-game suspension against Elliott. Jenkins does not disagree.
“I think it’s something that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” Jenkins said. “Obviously with Ray Rice, there was a video. The cases other guys have had in the past shouldn’t affect somebody else’s situation.”
The NFLPA leaked a transcript of text messages between Thompson and a friend during which they engaged in a conversation about extorting money from Elliott over a sex tape between the couple. It is that kind of thing that worries Jenkins in general.
“The hard part about being an athlete in the spotlight is that people know and sometimes are looking for a reason to make you look bad,” Jenkins said. “Whether you see fans out and they purposely agitate you just to try to get you on tape and extort you really. Or they can just say you did something in an attempt to ruin your reputation.
“Don’t get me wrong: Domestic violence or any kind of violence or sexual assault needs to be looked into and should be taken seriously. But at the same time, we don’t want to create an environment in which somebody can cry wolf and get you suspended for six games.”
Jenkins conceded he did not know all the details in the Elliott case, and it is not his job to know them all.
For most people, including the majority of NFL fans, the case is no longer about what happened between two people. It’s about how a six-game suspension impacts the Cowboys and their opponents. It’s about appeals that have no consideration for the case itself.
And if Jenkins is going to take a side, it is the side of the players.
“You’re talking not only about his season and his livelihood, but his whole team, and it’s over something that he has not been charged with or found guilty of doing,” Jenkins said. “As a Buckeye, I’m sad for him, and just as a player in general, it’s unfortunate.”
Obviously, like Eagles fans, Jenkins does recognize how an Elliott suspension could help his team, especially if the superstar running back misses one of the two remaining games the teams will play against each other this season. The first of those two games is scheduled for Nov. 19 in Arlington, Texas.
“Being in his division, you’re like, ‘Hey, it obviously helps us,’ but I want to go against their best players,” Jenkins said. “There’s no doubt he’s a huge piece of what they do offensively and why that team has had success. That’s not to say they can’t have success without him, but he’s a huge chunk.
“We don’t really have a player on our offense that we can compare to him besides Carson Wentz. Backs like Zeke, there are not many like that in the league. He is special, so to lose that would be detrimental to any team.”
The Cowboys could argue that their player was suspended for six games over a violent incident in which no charges were filed while Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham received no suspension despite entering a deferred prosecution program after being charged with felony battery in South Florida in the summer of 2016. Bradham was charged after breaking a man’s nose on South Beach in Miami.
“I think it’s because [the NFL] has now made a blanket statement when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault,” Jenkins said. “Most of that is reactionary to the Ray Rice situation because that started with two games and then there was a huge uproar once the video came out and we have to be stronger. In doing that, there is collateral damage, and that damage is when you have guys that are in this gray area and they get put into the blanket statement when they probably don’t need to be.”
The Eagles’ acquisition of running back Jay Ajayi for a fourth-round pick was a nice move, but it was Seattle that came away with the biggest impact player at the trade deadline by acquiring left tackle Duane Brown from Houston. It filled a huge need for the Seahawks, who should be considered the biggest threat to the Eagles in the NFC. The teams will play Dec. 3 in Seattle.
If the loss of Brown was not devastating to Houston, then the loss of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to a season-ending knee injury has to be. Watson, after throwing 19 touchdowns in his first seven NFL games, tore the ACL in his right knee at practice Thursday. The Texans will go with Cardinal O’Hara graduate Tom Savage at quarterback. He will make his fourth career start Sunday against Indianapolis.
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Atlanta at Carolina
The Falcons are 4-3 after seven games for the second straight season, but a year ago at this time, quarterback Matt Ryan had thrown for 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. This year, he has nine TDs, six interceptions, and 504 fewer passing yards. The Panthers have failed to score at least 20 points in six of their last 10 games dating to last season.
Kansas City at Dallas
How much does Ezekiel Elliott mean to the Cowboys offense? Consider these numbers: He has accounted for 46.7 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage and 47.4 percent of the team’s touches during his first two seasons. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has completed just 57.4 percent of his passes over the last three games after completing 76.6 percent in the first five. He still has not thrown an interception, however.
Oakland at Miami
The Raiders have lost five out of six and, at 3-5, are the most disappointing team in the AFC. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are 4-3, but coming off a 40-0 loss at Baltimore that has left them with a minus-60 point differential for the season. Miami running backs Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake had a combined 22 rushing attempts this season, but will now carry the load after Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles. Ajayi had accounted for 69.4 percent of the Dolphins’ rushing attempts over the last two seasons.
Detroit at Green Bay
The Packers have scored just 27 points in two games with Brett Hundley at quarterback, and they averaged 243.5 total yards per game in losses to Minnesota and New Orleans. Hundley has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions and has a 40.5 passer rating. The 3-4 Lions have lost three in a row and managed just 15 points on five field goals last week against Pittsburgh despite putting up 482 yards of offense.