Ezekiel Elliott Thriving Under Heavy Workload - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Ezekiel Elliott Thriving Under Heavy Workload

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    Ezekiel Elliott has carried the ball 115 times in the last four games, a total Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, surpassed just once.

    Elliott has carried the ball 60 times in the past two games, including a rugged 27 carries for 93 yards in Sunday’s 28-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

    He’s on pace to carry the ball a mind-boggling 382 times this season, provided he doesn’t have to serve an NFL-mandated six-game suspension.

    Elliott will be in New York on Thursday to attend his 1 p.m. CST hearing before a three-judge panel at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

    The panel will determine whether he gets a preliminary injunction that would probably allow him to play the rest of the season. If Elliott doesn’t get the injunction, his suspension would start immediately pending appeals.

    If Elliott’s season continues, you can expect the Cowboys to keep giving him the ball every chance they get because he sets up every aspect of their offense.

    You’d think Elliott would need a team of folks, including a  chiropractor, a masseuse and, maybe, an acupuncturist to make sure his body can withstand the rigors of a 16-game NFL season.

    Nope.

    “I get massages and I get in the cold tub,” said Elliott, as he played a game on his cell phone Wednesday in the Cowboys’ locker room.

    “I like to move around. That’s what gets the soreness out for me. I turn on the heater in the pool and run in it, but it’s getting too cold for that.”

    Such is the beauty of having a 22-years-old body.

    After a slow start, Elliott has reclaimed his spot among the NFL’s leading rushers. He’s done much of the damage in the last four games with one of the heaviest loads.

    He’s carried the ball more than 25 times in four consecutive games.

    “It’s not the carries that determines how sore I am after a game,” Elliott said. “It’s how physical the game is. I had more carries against Washington, but the holes were pretty big and I was getting into the line before I got hit.

    “Against Kansas City, it was more physical. I’ll tell you, though, it’s the hits you don’t see that hurt more than the ones you do see.”

    Smith had a long run of 11 against the Chiefs.

    “There were not a lot of explosive runs in the game, but there were a lot of three, four, five and six yard gains that add up after awhile,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He really allows us to control the game and the line of scrimmage and over the course of the game wear them down.”

    Smith, the NFL’s all-time leader in carries, had one stretch in his 15-year career with more carries. From Nov. 24 to Dec. 15 in 1991, Smith carried the ball 118 times in a four-game stretch at the end of the season, when the Cowboys were making a playoff push.

    DeMarco Murray set the franchise record with 392 carries in 2014, when he also established a club record with 1,845 yards. He never had a four-game stretch with more than 111 carries.

    “He wants the ball. Emotionally, he’s ready to handle the ball. Mentally, he’s ready to handle it. He loves the responsibility,” Garrett said of Elliott.

    “The great ones want the ball. The great  ones want to be on the mound in the ninth inning trying to get the out. In basketball, they want the ball in their hands for the last shot. It applies to our game as well. He thrives in those situations and gets better and better.

    “He has a competitive instinct to him that the best players I’ve been around have. He just wants it and he’s physically sturdy enough to handle it and he gets better as the game goes on.”

    Any stat you choose to use proves that.

    In his career, Elliott has gained 764 yards and averaged 5.2 per carry in the first quarter, and he’s gained 639 yards and averaged 4.5 in the fourth quarter of games. He’s carried 250 times for 1,168 yards in the first half of games and 263 times for 1,246 yards in the second half.

    In the fourth quarter when the Cowboys are ahead or behind by a touchdown, he’s carried 87 times for 428 yards and a 4.9 average per carry. And last year in December, he carried 79 times for 432 yards and a 5.5 average.

    Now, of course, the Cowboys just hope he gets an opportunity to carry the ball again this season.