FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said that running back Ezekiel Elliott is paying for mistakes that commissioner Roger Goodell made in dealing with the Ray Rice assault case in 2014.
"Zeke is a victim of an overcorrection," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday.
On Monday, Elliott lost his bid for a preliminary injunction that would have stayed the NFL's six-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. As a result, he will not be on the field again until Dec. 17 against the Oakland Raiders, pending a potential appeal.
"His swing of judgment has been unbelievable from the Ray Rice thing [from] one or two games all the way up to a six-game suspension when you truly have got a debate," Jones said. "Even this judge said it shows that very reasonable people could possibly come down on both sides of this. Well, under our legal system, it has to be stronger than that for someone to have done it. Now, we all know we were not there to see it, but I do have every point of contention on both sides, and in our system in this country, Zeke would not have any issue here as to his workplace.
"With the knowledge that I have, the circumstances aren't treating him fair. Two years ago this wouldn't be an issue, before Ray Rice."
Rice was initially suspended two games but was later suspended indefinitely after a video of the incident emerged. Jones contends that the league's change in stance when it came to Elliott was to appeal to the masses.
"They swung from where this, two years ago by the same collective bargaining agreement, in my mind, [Elliott] would be playing," Jones said. "Now he goes to where he's got the extreme penalty of six. Now there's a bigger penalty. You can be suspended. But still, this is the max. ... Anybody that has really looked at the facts of the case, has really looked at it, knows there was divisive and difference of opinion within the league itself."
During a conference call Tuesday, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said that 100 experts in the field were consulted and that the policy was approved by all of the league's ownership. "The process that we put in place in the aftermath of Ray Rice was put in very thoughtfully, very carefully," Lockhart said.
NFL lead investigator Kia Roberts said during the summer that she did not believe Elliott should be disciplined. Roberts was the only person in the league to interview the woman who said Elliott assaulted her. In announcing the suspension in August, the NFL said it had persuasive evidence that Elliott was violent toward a former girlfriend in the summer of 2016. Columbus, Ohio, authorities did not press charges against Elliott because of inconsistent evidence.
"It's fair to say this is a takeaway for the Cowboys," Jones said. "That's almost trite. On the other hand, what kind of job have we done to prepare if you don't have Zeke? It doesn't have to be because of this. It could be because of injury, just to help make the point.
"You just get it done, but you try to get it done a different way. Make no mistake about it, though, having a guy that with Zeke's skills has given us a way to do our offense and construct an offense that is very effective. We've got to get it done a different way if we don't have him."
Jones wanted to make clear he was not condoning domestic violence by defending Elliott.
"If we have a player or we have somebody guilty of domestic violence, they shouldn't play," Jones said. "But this isn't the case. In our society, [Elliott's] not guilty of that."