Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, suspended six games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy after multiple domestic violence incidents, is disappointed by the league's decision and plans to appeal.
In a personal statement posted Friday night on Twitter, Elliott said:
"I am both surprised and disappointed by the NFL's decision today, and I strongly disagree with the league's findings.
"I recognize the distraction and disruption that all of this has caused my family, friends, teammates, the Dallas Cowboys organization as well as my fans -- for that I am sincerely sorry.
"I admit that I am far from perfect, but I plan to continue to work very hard, on and off the field, to mature and earn the great opportunity I have been given."
Elliott plans to appeal the suspension, his representatives said in a statement. Elliott has three business days to file notice of appeal, and a hearing must be scheduled within 10 days of receipt of the notice, according to Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement, which governs appeal of commissioner discipline.
Elliott and his representatives disputed the NFL's conclusions and issued the following statement:
"We just learned of the NFL's decision to suspend Mr. Elliott for six games for allegedly engaging in 'physical force' against the accuser. Mr. Elliott and his team of representatives are extremely disappointed with the NFL's decision.
"Our offices have been engaged in this matter since last July and have worked hand in hand with the Columbus Prosecutor's office as well as the NFL with their respective investigations. Accordingly, we are fully aware of the full body of evidence that exists in connection with this matter.
"The NFL's findings are replete with factual inaccuracies and erroneous conclusions and it 'cherry picks' so-called evidence to support its conclusion while ignoring other critical evidence.
"For example, both the Columbus Prosecutor's office as well as the NFL investigators expressly concluded and conveyed to our office (and others) that the accuser was lying about an alleged July 22, 2016 incident whereby she accused Mr. Elliott of pulling her out of her car and assaulting her. An allegation that was ultimately undermined by her own friend's affidavit which stated that no such assault occurred. The affidavit also outlined the accuser's plan to orchestrate a story to police in order to corroborate her false allegation of assault. In addition, the NFL's own medical experts concluded that many of her injuries predated the week in question and likely occurred during a period of time when Mr. Elliott was not in contact with the accuser. During the upcoming weeks and through the appeal a slew of additional credible and controverting evidence will come to light."
The six-game ban is the penalty for first-time offenders of the league's new domestic violence policy.
The suspension is scheduled to begin Sept. 2 and Elliott is eligible to return to the Cowboys' roster on Oct. 23, one day after the team's Week 7 road game against the San Francisco 49ers.
As a result of the suspension, the guarantees in the four-year, $24.956 million deal Elliott signed with Dallas in 2016 will be voided, according to ESPN. Elliott will forfeit $559,192 in 2017 salary, according to salary cap website Spotrac.
In addition, Elliott will give up $240,000 per missed game in signing-bonus money if the suspension is upheld.
NFL officials said in a statement Friday that it investigated Elliott's case thoroughly and determined that he violated the personal conduct policy. The league examined text messages, interviewed more than a dozen witnesses -- including Elliott and the accuser -- and retained medical and legal experts to help (commissioner Roger) Goodell reach his decision.
Elliott, 22, is accused by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson of five domestic assault incidents in July 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, and has been under NFL investigation, although the city attorney's office already announced he will not face criminal charges.
Peter Harvey, the former attorney general for New Jersey who aided the NFL's investigation, said the league analyzed metadata related to the photographs and determined the photos were taken on the date the woman said the violence occurred.
Harvey said Elliott's representatives presented "alternative theories" to how she may have sustained the injuries but did not offer evidence of the injuries occurring under those circumstances.
"So while alternative theories are interesting, in my judgment they have to be supported by evidence, and that was lacking in this particular situation," Harvey said.
NFL vice president of communications Joe Lockhart said Friday that the league told Elliott he used "poor judgment and questionable behavior" in pulling down the woman's top during a St. Patrick's Day incident, but that the action did not rise to the level of adding to his penalty.
"Over the course of the last year, the league conducted an extensive investigation," a league statement read Friday. "League investigators interviewed more than a dozen witnesses, including Ms. Tiffany Thompson, who had alleged multiple instances of physical violence in July 2016, and Mr. Elliott. The league also consulted with medical experts. League investigators examined all available evidence, including photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications.
"... After reviewing the record, and having considered the views of the independent advisors, the (NFL) commissioner determined that the credible evidence established that Elliott engaged in conduct that violated NFL policy."
The NFL Players' Association also issued a statement saying it is reviewing the league's decision and has been "in touch with Ezekiel and his representatives to consider all options."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is reportedly "furious" with the league's decision to suspend Elliott, according to ESPN.
Jones previously said that the focus of the league's investigation was centered around Elliott's behavior and not the domestic violence allegations.
"I have reviewed everything, and there is absolutely nothing -- not one thing -- that had anything to do with domestic violence," Jones said during the team's training camp.
The second-year running back is coming off a sensational rookie season in which he rushed for a Cowboys-rookie-record 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl selection.