Ezekiel Elliott didn’t offer any alibis. Nor did the Cowboys’ running back provide any excuses.
He accepted full responsibility and the blame for two plays in Sunday’s 42-17 loss to Denver that showed a stunning lack of effort for one of the NFL’s best players, a dude with a reputation for playing hard every snap.
Good for him. It’s what he should’ve done.
"I would say I was just very frustrated, but that's no excuse for the lack of effort I showed on tape," said Elliott, who gained a career-low eight yards against Denver.
"I just can't do that. Being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on, I can't put that type of stuff on film.”
People make mistakes all the time. How they handle them tells you more about the person than the actual mistake.
When a mistake happens, the best approach is to own it, figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again and move on having learned a valuable lesson.
When the Cowboys’ locker room opened Thursday, Elliott sat at his locker for about 10 minutes waiting for Dak Prescott to finish his interviews.
Then he matter-of-factly answered a steady stream of questions about the two plays that have put a dent in the reputation he has spent years forging.
"It's definitely not me. It's definitely not the type of player I am," Elliott said. "It's definitely not who I am for this team. I just can't do that. I was frustrated, and I wasn't myself."
In the the third quarter, a pass slipped through Dez Bryant’s hands and Chris Harris Jr. intercepted it at the Dallas 46. Elliott, who was behind the play, stood with his hands on his hips as Harris headed toward the Cowboys’ end zone.
He made no attempt to join the play.
Late in the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott threw an interception in the left corner of the end zone that Aqib Talib intercepted and eventually returned it 103 yards for a touchdown.
Elliott stayed on the ground after blocking a blitzing defender, and did not chase after Talib as he sprinted down the sideline.
Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson said the plays were examples of Elliott quitting on the Cowboys. The topic, as you can imagine, has been hot on various social media platforms and on sports talk radio, especially in Dallas.
The reality, however, is it has been a much bigger issue outside The Star in Frisco, where the Cowboys’ train, than it has been inside the building where the team is searching for ways to beat Arizona on Monday night.
That’s because the Cowboys view these two plays as an aberration - not the norm.
Garrett addressed Elliott’s poor effort at Wednesday’s team meeting.
"He's not perfect. Nobody is perfect,” Garrett said. “When things happen, we address them. We coach them, and then we move forward.”
Elliott, who led the league in yards (1,631) and carries (322) last season, has participated in 836 plays in his 18-game NFL career and virtually all of the others show him putting forth a championship effort whether he’s carrying the ball or not.
Plus, it’s easy to understand why the Broncos frustrated him, though please don’t misconstrue that as an excuse for the egregious plays.
Elliott had not gained fewer than 80 yards in a game since the opener against the New York Giants last season. They held him to 51 yards on 20 carries.
Here are Elliott’s nine carries against Denver: 0, 3, 2, 0, -5, 0, 2, 1, 5.
“I know the type of football player he is, and the type of guy he is," Prescott said. "I've never, and never will, question his competitiveness or his lack of effort or whatever you want to say. I'll never question that.
“I know he's going to be there for me, for his teammates, for this organization, so I don't pay attention to what other people say.”
There’s no need as long as Elliott plays the way he supposed to play.