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Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliot ripped and ready

By The Sports Xchange
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Photo courtesy of the <a class="tpstyle" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc8QRDFg9Jz/?taken-by=dallascowboys" title="Cowboys via Instagram">Dallas Cowboys/Instagram</a>
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys/Instagram

FRISCO, Texas -- Running back Ezekiel Elliott is back for the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) in their final push for the playoffs, starting Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks (8-6).

Elliott missed the past six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy for allegedly committing domestic violence against a former girlfriend.

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Elliott was never arrested or charged in the case and fought the NFL in court for the first several weeks of the season before finally conceding.

In his first public words during a media session Wednesday at the Cowboys' headquarters after spending much of the last six weeks working out in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Elliott thanked the Cowboys, teammates and fans for standing behind him during his ordeal.

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"I'm not really going to talk about it," Elliott said. "It's behind me. I'm just trying to start a new page, a new chapter. I'm going to thank this Cowboys organization for being behind me. Thank my family, my team and my friends for just supporting me through that time and especially the Cowboys fans who have stuck by me through this tough time and haven't lost faith in me.

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"But I'm not talking about it anymore. This is going to be the last time you hear me speak about it, so please don't even ask me about it."

Elliott was excited to be back with his teammates.

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"It was great. The energy was high," Elliott said about his first practice back with his teammates. "I missed all the guys. They missed me, and we're excited to continue the season."

The Cowboys are just happy to have him back for the final two games. His presence on the field and his swagger in practice and the locker room are welcomed as well.

"It's great. Obviously, his energy and his presence, what he brings with that alone is beneficial to this team," quarterback Dak Prescott said. "Just his personality and the way he goes about his day and his excitement, definitely brings that and it carries over throughout the week of practice and into Sunday.

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"You can tell that he's excited. You see that in him running around, his interaction with his teammates, he's happy to be back."

Elliott's presence will make life easier for Prescott and the passing game.

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Prescott said Elliott understands he let the Cowboys down. The team went 3-3 in his absence. He said Elliott is motivated to make amends. He can tell by the shape he is in and how he approached practice, finishing runs, attacking pass protection, doing exactly what he needs to do.

"Yeah, of course." Prescott said of Elliott's motivation. "I think that alone is pretty much, the fact that he probably never let his team down, never been in this position or situation, so to experience that, I know what it lit inside of him and, yeah, you'll see it.

"He knows what's important and that's the game of football. I know it motivated him just watching the game and watching his teammates and his boys go out there and play. Obviously, him wanting to be out there, I know it lit a fire in him, just seeing him and the way he's been performing, coming back you can tell ... A guy who's done the right thing in those six weeks and prepared himself to come back."

Elliott's agent released pictures of a ripped Elliott running on the beach on Sunday and he looked the part when he saw his teammates for the first time.

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"He looked lean," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. "He looked in good shape, so I'm ready for him to get the ball 80 times. It's just great to have him back. He should have fresh legs, ready to run the ball, ready to attack opposing defenses. We're just happy to have him back, just have our brother back in this locker room."

Lawrence said Elliott appeared to be as excited seeing the Cowboys as they were seeing him, like a big kid seeing his folks at Christmas.

"Big-ass kid. Big-ass kid. I mean, just very excited, very happy, joyful," Lawrence said. "You could tell he missed us so much. We also missed him a lot. Just to have that enthusiasm, all his running around, all his playful and joyness in this locker room."

SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Cowboys leads series, 10-6. Dallas has won four of the last six. Seattle won the last meeting, 13-12 in 2015.

--Lawrence earned his first Pro Bowl selection, being named a starter on the NFC team. Lawrence highlighted a group of four Cowboys who earned the nod to the NFL's all-star game.

Joining Lawrence will be center Travis Frederick, right guard Zack Martin and left tackle Tyron Smith. Martin and Smith were elected starters.

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"It will be great, just for the recognition," Lawrence said before the announcement on Tuesday. "Knowing that the fans and coaches and players also see what I've been going through and seeing all the plays I've been making on the field."

It's a well-deserved honor for Lawrence, who is in the midst of a career year.

Lawrence ranks third in the NFL in sacks with 13.5, a career high and the most for a Cowboys player since DeMarcus Ware had 19.5 in 2011. Lawrence has also been credited with 45 quarterback pressures by the coaching breakdown.

The second most on the Cowboys? Tyrone Crawford with 25.

On top of being one of the top pass rushers in the game, Lawrence prides himself in being an all-around player. He's been effective in the running game with 41 tackles, including six for loss.

"I take a lot of pride in it. This is not a one-dimensional system," Lawrence said. "Y'all should know, playing for (defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli) is that you have to be able to do everything in all areas. You have to set the edge for the defense, make it easier so your linebackers don't have to run all the way across the field."

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Lawrence, 25, reiterated that being healthy has allowed him to be productive this season. He's undergone back surgeries the past two offseasons and had just one sack in nine games last season.

"After my first game, after my first sack, I felt like, 'OK, I've got my legs back now and I can kind of roll,'" Lawrence said. "And I've been feeling good ever since then."

NOTES: DE David Irving missed practice Wednesday and missed the past two games with a concussion. He is still having headaches and might miss Sunday's game. ... DE DeMarcus Lawrence missed practice Wednesday with back tightness. He will play against the Seahawks. ... LB Anthony Hitchens sat out Wednesday with a sprained knee. He may not practice all week, but he says he is playing against the Seahawks. ... T Tyron Smith is questionable with a sprained LCL in his knee. He is not expected to practice this week. ... WR Brice Butler practiced Wednesday after missing the past two games with a foot injury. ... CB Orlando Scandrick practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but is still in pain from two fractures in his back that sidelined him the past two weeks.

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