The NFL filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Friday to seek a stay and allow the league to enforce its six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The league asked for a ruling by Tuesday but no later than Sept. 26 in a filing to stay the preliminary injunction that blocked Elliott's suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
If the earlier date motion is granted, it would take Elliott off the field for the Week 3 game against the Arizona Cardinals. The later date would start the suspension in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams.
The emergency stay would allow the suspension to be enforced while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit considers whether to overturn the ruling that delays the appeal.
"The court not only entertained a blatantly prematurely challenge, but then found a likelihood of success in a procedural challenge to the arbitrator's decision," the NFL's motion states. "That precedent-defying decision will not stand, and nothing in the stay equities favors delaying an arbitrator's decision that will almost certainly be vindicated at the end of the proceedings. The misguided order ... should be stayed and then promptly reversed."
The NFL on Monday filed an appeal of the Fifth Circuit Court injunction of Elliott's suspension that permitted Elliott to play last Sunday night in the season opener against the New York Giants.
The 22-year-old running back was found to be in violation of the personal conduct policy by the NFL and his appeal through league arbitration channels was denied by Harold Henderson. Just over 48 hours before kickoff, Elliott and the NFL Players Association scored a temporary victory when a Fifth Circuit judge in Texas granted a temporary injunction.
"The NFL's latest legal maneuvering appears to be indicative of a league with an agenda: trying to navigate a public relations crisis rather than focus on fairness and fact finding," Elliott's attorneys wrote in a statement Friday. "The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the NFL believes it can write its own rules and will stop at nothing to further its agenda of enforcing its unfounded assertions regarding Mr. Elliott.
"Most recently this would include the NFL seeking an expedited hearing on staying the preliminary injunction by frivolously arguing that the NFL is somehow 'irreparably harmed' by Elliott playing while the Courts decide whether the investigation and appeal was fundamentally unfair. Mr. Elliott and his team will continue to zealously oppose any of the NFL's court filings."
Without the ruling from U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant last week, Elliott would have missed the next six games and not been able to return until Nov. 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mazzant is reviewing the league's request for an emergency stay of the injunction he issued as he continues to examine the merits of the NFLPA's petition to have Elliott's entire suspension dissolved.
The stay requests are part of an attempt by the NFL to enforce the suspension during this season and confirm NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to issue punishment based on "conduct detrimental" to the league as part of the collective bargaining agreement.
In granting the injunction, Mazzant sided with Elliott and the NFLPA in questioning the fairness of his appeal hearing with Henderson in which his accuser was not cross-examined and Goodell was not made available to Elliott's attorneys for questioning.
The NFLPA weighed in Friday with an open letter to the media.
"This week, the NFL continued their endless spin cycle by using their lawyers and political operatives in a series of background and on-the-record media calls that only included some of you. This is a desperate attempt to rescue whatever credibility they have left with you and the fans.
"For all of the distractions that the League office has dictated to you this week, here is a reminder about who we are and what we do in the words of the Federal Judge Amos Mazzant in the Elliott decision: 'Luckily, the NFLPA found the fairness needle in the unfairness haystack. ...'"
Elliott, who was not arrested nor charged in the case, maintains his innocence after being accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. The original punishment was issued by Goodell on Aug. 11 after a 13-month league investigation.
Elliott talked to reporters after rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries in the Cowboys' 19-3 win against the Giants.
"Just relieved for the fact that I finally get a fair trial," Elliott said Sunday night. "I finally get a chance to prove my innocence and just happy that I'll get to be with the guys for as long as permitted and not miss time and not having to be away from them. It's definitely been a tough last 14 months. At times it's gotten so hard you start to lose faith."
The Cowboys play at the Denver Broncos on Sunday.