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Tony Romo: Dallas Cowboys recall emotional speech one year ago

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The Sports Xchange
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, right, talks to his former backup Dak Prescott as they warm up prior to facing the Baltimore Ravens on November 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. File photo by Ian Halperin/UPI
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, right, talks to his former backup Dak Prescott as they warm up prior to facing the Baltimore Ravens on November 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. File photo by Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are exactly a year removed from Tony Romo's eloquent, albeit reluctant, concession speech.

Romo, the team's all-time leading passer, officially ceded the job to then-rookie sensation Dak Prescott, who was in the midst of the finest first season of any quarterback in NFL history.

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"I remember a lot of news," Prescott said Wednesday. "I remember a lot of @'s on Twitter for the most part. I didn't know he was doing it on that day until after it was done. But just going back and watching it. It was great by him. I felt his speech was more public. Me and him had already known our place between each other and our relationship."

It would prove to be the right thing to do as Prescott has gone from rookie phenom to sophomore sensation with 16 touchdowns passing, four running and just four interceptions through nine games for the 5-4 Cowboys heading into Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1).

RELATED Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott withdraws appeal, will serve suspension

The Cowboys still remain an organization forever in the midst of controversy, thanks to owner Jerry Jones' latest fight with the NFL and running back Ezekiel Elliott's federal court battle over a six-game suspension, and seemingly stuck in neutral.

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The Cowboys are desperately hoping to stay in the playoff chase with Elliott suspended for another five games, left tackle Tyron Smith likely missing a second straight game with a groin injury and linebacker Sean Lee possibly out another two or three games with a hamstring injury.

The absence of those three played a prominent role in Sunday's non-competitive 27-7 blowout loss to the Falcons and the reason many give them little hope of success against the streaking Eagles on Sunday night.

But the Cowboys remain hopeful because of Prescott and his leadership.

"He is an outstanding leader," head coach Jason Garrett said of Prescott. "He has such a great spirit about him. He sets a great example for his teammates. He has a real even keel through success and through adversity. Those guys can look at him as a consistent figure. It's not only the guys on offense. But certainly everybody on the football team.

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"It starts with the example he sets and what he is all about as a person. He is a physically tough guy. He is a mentally tough guy. That gets great respect from your teammates and from your coaches. More than that he has a way to connect with guys to bring out the best in the guys around him."

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Those traits Garrett saw even as a rookie when he chose to stick with Prescott over Romo in a watershed decision that wasn't just about sticking with the hot hand leading an 8-1 team riding an eight-game winning streak.

It was also about choosing a new franchise quarterback and new leader for the present and future. Romo knew as much, which is why he felt he needed to make a public statement with a speech that no one will soon forget.

The Cowboys learned a lot about Romo that day -- things they already knew, some things that needed reassurance. No one knew it was happening, not even Garrett. But the players heard the buzz in the locker room and many watched it over and over on their phones.

"It was an incredible speech I think our team really rallied behind," Lee recalled. "For him to step up like that was a big impact for our team and reflected the type of personality he has, the type of leadership he showed, the type of great football player he was and how much he cared about this team."

They have also been reassured about the choice they made in Prescott.

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"You bring that up, that's the first I heard of it," center Travis Frederick said. "I think that now that you say that, that it's been a year, it's amazing the progress that Dak has made in a year. The way that he grew throughout last year and continued to learn from things that went well and didn't go well for him and the progress that he's made to where he is today is amazing. I think that's a tribute to the way that he works and continues to keep his head to the grindstone trying to continuing to improve."

SERIES HISTORY: 113th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-50. Dallas has won six of the last 10. Dallas has faced no team in the NFL more than Eagles. Dallas won last year at home 29-23 in overtime.

--Running back Ezekiel Elliott continues to maintain his innocence against domestic violence allegations made by former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.

But he has finally accepted the reality of having no chance of winning a legal fight in federal court against the NFL in hopes of getting a six-game suspension overturned and hopefully clearing his name.

In a statement through his lawyers, Rocky Arceneaux and Frank Salzano, Elliott announced Wednesday that he was foregoing any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension.

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Elliott's final bid for a preliminary injunction was rejected by the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals last Thursday, reinstating his suspension, beginning with last Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

But with a Dec. 1 date in the Second Circuit to hear his full appeal, with a possible return after four games, he conceded the inevitable.

"In consultation with the NFLPA and his lawyers, and after careful deliberation and review of the recent Second Circuit decisions, Mr. Elliott has decided to forego any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension. This decision arises from a practical assessment of the current legal landscape," the statement from his attorneys read. "Mr. Elliott's desire for closure in this matter is in his best interests, as well as the best interests of his teammates, family and friends. This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Elliott is pleased that the legal fight mounted by him and his team resulted in the disclosure of many hidden truths regarding this matter, as well as public exposure of the NFL's mismanagement of its disciplinary process. Mr. Elliott will maximize this time away from the game and come back even stronger both on and off the field. He intends to release a final personal statement in the upcoming weeks and until then we have no further comment."

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Elliott was initially suspended Aug. 11, but has been allowed to play because of a dizzying array of injunctions, restraining orders and court rulings after his initial appeal was rejected by NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson.

Elliott was given a preliminary injunction by Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas, allowing him to play the first five games, before it was thrown out by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans because of improper jurisdiction.

He was then given a 14-day temporary restraining order based on irreparable harm by Judge Paul Crotty of the Southern District of New York, allowing him to play two more games, before Judge Katherine Failla rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction on Oct. 30, reinstating the suspension.

Elliott filed an emergency appeal with the 2nd Circuit in hopes of overturning Failla's decision and was given an emergency stay on Nov. 3, allowing him to play in the 28-17 over the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5.

Elliott attended a hearing in New York on Nov. 9 where a three-judge panel denied his motion for a preliminary junction, but set a Dec. 1 date to hear his full appeal. Elliott decided Thursday not to pursue that Dec. 1 hearing date.

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The NFL Players Association inssued a statement on Wednesday on the Elliott case.

"On behalf of all players, the Union appealed the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott to its logical conclusion and we are withdrawing our lawsuit," the statement read.

"Our vigilant fight on behalf of Ezekiel once again exposed the NFL's disciplinary process as a sham and a lie. They hired several former federal prosecutors, brought in 'experts' and imposed a process with the stated goal of 'getting it right,' yet the management council refuses to step in and stop repeated manipulation of an already awful League-imposed system."

--Owner Jerry Jones dismissed the notion that the NFL could force him to sell the Cowboys because of his attempts to block an extension for commissioner Roger Goodell.

"I've had not one, not one, inkling of communication from the league office or any owner that would suggest something that laughable and ridiculous," Jones said on his 105.3 The Fan radio show Tuesday. "If somebody is asserting that or thinking about that kind of thing, they're not knowledgeable on how things work in the NFL."

The notion surfaced in a ProFootballTalk.com story suggesting the league could have a "nuclear option" to force Jones to sell the Cowboys, although it noted it'd be highly unlikely for the league to go down that road.

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But that's how contentious things have gotten between the owners over Goodell's extension. Jones has threatened to sue the league if the six-member compensation committee doesn't seek approval among the other owners for Goodell's extension.

The compensation committee's chairman, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and Jones did not meet or even exchange pleasantries during the Cowboys' latest road game.

"We didn't and, frankly, hadn't planned to," Jones said.

Jones also disputed a report in The New York Times saying a cease-and-desist warning was issued to him regarding his conduct on Goodell's extension. The league could discipline Jones in several manners such as fines, docking draft picks or even a suspension.

"I have had communication with the committee chairman (Blank), but other than that I've had no notice or anything," Jones said.

Jones went on to say that he has garnered support in slowing the Goodell extension talks down from owners who are also not on the compensation committee.

"I speak to a lot of owners and I know them to be really supportive of the idea of being able to, on their part, see what guide and give input to the committee, particularly the chairman," Jones said. "I have well over half this league that is very interested in, not only being a part of what is negotiated, but having it come back to them for approval."

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The owners voted 32-0 in May to grant the committee the power to negotiate with Goodell. The committee and Goodell are working on an extension that would take him through 2024.

NOTES: TE Geoff Swaim practiced on a limited basis Wednesday after missing last week's game with knee swelling. He should be ready to go against the Eagles. ... WR Dez Bryant missed practice Wednesday with a sore knee. It also bothered him last week and had him limited in practice. He should play on Sunday. ... S Jeff Heath remains in concussion protocol. If he can't go Sunday, look for rookie Xavier Woods to start but also look for Chidobe Awuzie to get time at the position. ... LB Anthony Hitchens will move from the middle to the weak side to replace an injured Sean Lee. Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant will share the middle with Durant getting a bigger load. Hitchens has made 36 tackles, including five for loss, in five games this season. He missed the start of the season after fracturing the tibial plateau in his right leg. Now he will handle being the signal-caller. "Communication is huge, getting the guys lined up, and I'm going to be the guy making the calls if (Lee's) not," Hitchens said. "I just try my best to imitate him and get everyone lined up. He's going to help me throughout the week. At the end of the day, if he's out, I've got to step up and play the Sean Lee role." ... Dak Prescott is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history with 50 combined rushing and passing touchdowns in his first 25 games, joining Dan Marino, Daunte Culpepper and Kurt Warner.

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