Ezekiel Elliott is having a historic rookie season for the Cowboys and has been one of the game's most productive running backs, but he could face a lengthy suspension if the NFL's current investigation finds he has violated the league's domestic abuse policy, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Authorities in Columbus, Ohio, declined to press charges against Elliott following an incident there this summer, in which a complaint was filed against Elliott claiming five instances of domestic abuse, and the NFL's probe into the situation continues.
Multiple sources said that during the recent league meetings in Houston, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones raised the topic of the probe with Lisa Friel, a former New York prosecutor who spearheads the NFL's domestic violence investigations as a special counsel for the league. According to these sources, the interaction between Jones and Friel occurred with other league and team executives within earshot, and Friel did not respond to Jones during the interaction.
The Cowboys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday on Jones' interaction with Friel.
USA Today first reported earlier this week that NFL investigators recently interviewed Elliott as part of the investigation. The NFL does not comment on the potential status of any violations of the personal conduct policy that may be under review, and declined to comment for this report.
No charges were brought against Elliott on any of the five complaints after the prosecutor's office determined "conflicting and inconsistent information across all incidents resulting in concern regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to support the filing of criminal charges."
However, the NFL has made it clear in its domestic violence policy that suspensions can still be warranted even in instances where no charges are brought, and sources said the league is continuing to gather information. The NFL's baseline policy calls for six games for the first instance of abuse; Giants kicker Josh Brown was recently given a one-game suspension due to "mitigating circumstances," but is now under investigation by the NFL again following evidence that pointed to potential other instances of abuse.
The league does not put a timeline on its investigations into domestic violence, and often faces difficulty obtaining timely evidence and statements from law enforcement and witnesses when applicable. Owners and executives from several teams took issue privately with how the Giants and the NFL handled the Brown situation, some believing it gave the appearance of preferential treatment for that franchise and its powerful owners, a sentiment the league strongly rebuffed.
Given the negative fallout of the Brown case, the NFL is once again under intense scrutiny regarding its handling of domestic abuse allegations.