The NFL Players Association filed a response with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Saturday, challenging the NFL's emergency motion to enforce its six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The union argued that the league's motion should be denied on the grounds that Elliott and the Cowboys will suffer irreparable harm if the second-year running back is forced to serve the suspension while the legal battle is being waged.
"Elliott stands to lose nearly half a season in a career that is notoriously short and precarious, and competitive opportunities are irretrievable once lost," the union said in its motion.
The NFLPA also contended that the NFL will not suffer any such harm if Elliott is allowed to continue playing while the courts decide the issue.
"The NFL faces no irreparable harm should Ezekiel Elliott continue to practice and play pending appeal. If the NFL were to ultimately prevail, it could simply impose the suspension later this season or next," the union contends. "Elliott practiced and played for a year while the NFL investigated him; the NFL then permitted him to practice and play after his disciplinary appeal was denied; and it is the ordinary course for NFL players to play while challenging discipline. Maintaining this status quo weighs strongly against a stay."
On Friday, the NFL filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seeking to block the preliminary injunction on the six-game ban.
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 stated. "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 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.
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.
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 rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries in the Cowboys' 19-3 win against the Giants.