Lead NFL investigator in Ezekiel Elliott case reportedly recommended no suspension

After a three day appeal that included more than 25 hours of testimony, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott probably feels that there's a good chance his suspension could be reduced or eliminated following a bombshell from the NFL's lead investigator in his case. 

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, NFL lead investigator Kia Roberts testified this week that she recommended that Elliott not be suspended for his alleged domestic violence incidence. 

Not only did Roberts play a key role in the Elliott case, but she was the only NFL employee who spoke to Elliott's accuser, Tiffany Thompson, during the 13-month investigation. 

Using findings from Roberts' investigation, the NFL decided to give Elliott a six-game suspension. In the league's final report on the Elliott investigation, which was released on August 11, the NFL justified Elliott's suspension by mentioning that he had caused injuries to Thompson on at least three occasions. 

However, Roberts, who was the only person to speak with Thompson, pointed out during her testimony during the appeal this week that she was never consulted about Elliott's suspension or even asked to make a recommendation, which would have been zero games. 

According to the Star-Telegram, the league's team that came up with the punishment included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, senior vice president for investigations Lisa Friel, executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash and senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch. 

The Star-Telegram also added that Friel, who ultimately recommended the six-game suspension for Elliott, barred Roberts from attending the meeting. Roberts, who used to be former assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, was hired by the NFL in 2015 to serve as its director of investigations. 

Although Roberts wasn't involved in the punishment, Goodell did reach out to four experts -- former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, Pro Football Hall of Famer Ken Houston, The Women of Color Network CEO Tonya Lovelace and former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White -- who helped examine the evidence against Elliott. 

The fact that Roberts led the investigation but wasn't included in the punishment process makes the NFLPA believe that it will have a strong case against the NFL if Elliott's appeal has to go to federal court. 

The pressure is now on appeals officer Harold Henderson, who is likely going to have come up with an airtight decision over the next four days. According to ESPN.com, the hope is that Henderson will have a decision by Monday. 

That deadline makes sense because if the decision hasn't been made by Tuesday, then Elliott will be eligible to play in the Cowboys' Week 1 game against the Giants no matter what happens in his case. 

Henderson actually started a chain of events recently that led us to where we are now. On Aug. 25, Elliott's camp reportedly requested that Thompson be required to appear at the appeals hearing. However, according to Pro Football Talk, Henderson denied that request, but ordered Roberts to attend instead, since she had interviewed Thompson. 

If Elliott's suspension is upheld on appeal or if he's unhappy with the outcome, the Cowboys running back will almost certainly take his case to federal court, as Tom Brady did after he was suspended for his alleged role in Deflategate. 

If Elliott's case does end up in court, the running back would likely be allowed to play until a final decision was made by a judge. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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