ARLINGTON -- It's going down to the wire with the Ezekiel Elliott holdout.
With the preseason finale now wrapped for the Dallas Cowboys, all eyes turn to and peer more passionately toward the two-time NFL rushing champ, as the world wonders if Elliott will be in uniform when the team kicks off the season opener against the New York Giants. Talks between both sides have been steadily progressive and optimistic up to this point, barring an off-the-cuff comment or two from owner Jerry Jones that's added extra flavoring to the situation. From his well-positioned "Zeke who?" joke to remarks that continually remind everyone of the Cowboys' readiness to start the season without their two-time All-Pro, Jones has been in prime negotiating form for weeks now.
That didn't stop when he addressed the media following the team's 17-15 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Jones reasserting just how prepped the Cowboys are in the event Elliott pushes his holdout into September.
If anything, he sounds like he's conceded it'll happen, or at least that's what the wily Hall of Famer wants everyone to believe.
"I'm operating as though right now he's going to miss regular season games," he said. "My entire expectation for what we're putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out, and not having made it to training camp [or the] preseason -- is that he's going to miss games. I just accept that."
It's entirely possible there's a scenario that unfolds that forces Elliott's hand, but that's not the tone of the conversation, and Jones knows it. Both he and team exec Stephen Jones have recently stated they anticipate a deal being done before Week 1, with the obvious caveat that they can't guarantee it. Still, Jones is ready if things fall through in the final chapter of talks, but what he's not willing to accept is Elliott missing an entire season.
"He can't, and won't, miss them all," Jones said firmly. "We need Zeke. We're a better team with Zeke."
There's plenty of evidence to prove that statement as true, and no matter how the team weaves the narrative in the media, both the Cowboys and Elliott want to be married for the long-term; and both want a reunion as soon as it is possible. To that end, it remains likely a deal lands at some point before Sept. 8.
For those wondering if Jones has a deadline on when Elliott must report in order to play against the Giants? Completely understanding the value of Elliott and the level of conditioning he's undergone in Cabo, the Cowboys have no concerns on if the two-time Pro Bowler will be ready -- whether he reports on Monday, or Friday.
"No, there's no deadline [for that]."
The only thing left to do now is agree to terms.