NFL says Ezekiel Elliott likely to play Week 2, but hints at suspension late in 2017

For those wondering about confirmation for the Cowboys having Ezekiel Elliott on the field for Sunday's Week 2 game against the Broncos in Denver, there is some good news: he is pretty much a lock to play as of lunchtime on Wednesday, at least from a discipline perspective.

On a conference call with media members, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart said he "would assume" that Elliott will play Sunday. Elliott was previously suspended six games by the NFL this offseason over a 2016 domestic violence incident, but Elliott sued the NFL (as one does) and was granted a temporary restraining order allowing him to play.

But things could get a little murky as the season moves along. According to Lockhart, he does not believe it is "likely" that Elliott will play the rest of the season.

"It is possible," Lockhart said. "But I don't know that I would go so far as to say likely."

This could be one of two things. It could be the NFL throwing a public barb out there to try and take a shot at Elliott's legal team and the Cowboys and Elliott's fantasy owners. Or it could be the NFL trying to push the narrative that it is attempting to speed up the legal process in the Elliott battle. 

Based on what NFL Media's Mike Garafolo said on Good Morning Football this week, it could easily be the latter. 

"They're going to try, they're going to try, to hit the guess on that one and speed things up," Garafolo said. "Likelihood ... not a guarantee that Ezekiel Elliott's 2017 season is not affected."

Essentially the league wants to crank up the legal process -- and is asking the judges involved in the cases and appeals -- to expedite things because the league could suffer irreparable harm if it cannot enforce suspensions in a timely fashion. The case involving Tom Brady would be the precedent here.  

This gets a little scary for all the parties involved here -- if the league were to win in court and get the expedited ruling on a hearing and a potential punishment, it is possible that the NFL could enforce Elliott's six-game suspension at a point in time that would be less than ideal for everyone involved (outside of the NFL).

The Cowboys losing Zeke for the first six games of the season would be bad, but the Cowboys losing Zeke for the last six games of the season (or part of the playoffs) would be worse.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, there is no way to know what is going to happen. Only the judges involved here have real access to the future of Elliott on the field, and even they probably don't know exactly how this is going to play out. Elliott is likely to end up playing the whole season, but the NFL is not known for not getting its way. Anything and everything is on the table still.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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