OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reiterated Tuesday during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan that the door has not closed on the return of Ezekiel Elliott; however, coach Mike McCarthy said the team's focus is on the young running backs, even with the suspension of Ronald Jones.
"We're not just going to hit a bump and give up on the path," McCarthy said. "We want to see these young guys. I want to see them play in games."
Behind Tony Pollard, who had 1,007 yards and 12 total touchdowns last season, the Cowboys have Jones, Malik Davis, Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn. Jones had just 17 carries last year with the Kansas City Chiefs and has not been an every-down back since 2020. Davis had 38 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown with the Cowboys, while Dowdle has not had a carry in two years because of injuries. Vaughn is a sixth-round pick.
The NFL suspended Jones for two games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. On Tuesday, Jones said the failed test was for a heart medicine that has been prescribed since he entered the league. While saying he is responsible for what he puts in his body, he is disappointed in the NFL's decision.
"We tried to appeal. I asked for a re-test, sample my blood, my health concerns and they didn't really look at it," Jones said. "I think there needs to be more protection for the players because if you have health issues, we're a human being outside of football and we have real-life issues, too. My family suffers from heart disease."
He added, "I just want to clear my name in terms of I'm not cheating the game of football. It's literally a prescription medicine."
Jones can practice with the team through training camp and play in the preseason games before his suspension takes effect prior to Week 1. He will be eligible to return to the team Sept. 18.
"We obviously were aware of the situation," McCarthy said. "We support him and we'll work through this. But as far as how the team is going to shake out, I mean, we have a lot of work to do. But we clearly understand the rules that go with a suspension."
In March, the Cowboys released Elliott, the franchise's third-leading rusher, with him set to count $16.7 million against the cap. He still counts $5.8 million against the cap, and the Cowboys have his replacement, Pollard, counting $10.091 million against the cap on the franchise tag.
Pollard is coming off high-ankle surgery in January but has been available for every practice since the Cowboys' arrival in Oxnard, California, last week.
"When you have relationships that are long and been mutually beneficial, there's a personal component," McCarthy said. "Personally, it wasn't easy for anybody but when you make a commitment to young players because it's the big picture, the overall roster and development and how that room is going to look. It's great to have two No. 1 running backs in your room. I think we clearly benefitted, particularly in '21 and '22 because I felt like we used those guys. I think our run attempts and ball distribution reflected that, but this is about the bigger picture and it goes well beyond just the running back room.
"It's how you fit it together. There's a financial projection that's involved in these decisions. This is the roster that we've put together, and my job is to make sure I develop it at all times and get trained here to go win games."