FRISCO, Texas -- For seven seasons, Ezekiel Elliott was a member of the Dallas Cowboys, becoming a fan favorite and the franchise's third-leading career rusher. On Sunday, Elliott returns to AT&T Stadium as a member of the New England Patriots.
"I mean, I don't have that much time to be too emotional," Elliott said on a conference call with Dallas media Wednesday. "I've got to prepare for a game. I've got to go out put my best foot forward. I mean, there are emotions. I may do a good job of kind of hiding them but there will be some emotions."
On a phone call with owner and general manager Jerry Jones on March 15, the Cowboys released Elliott in part because of declining production and in part because of a $16.7 million hit against the salary cap.
Nine days before Elliott was released, the Cowboys placed the $10.09 million franchise tag on running back Tony Pollard.
"I talked on the phone with Mr. Jones, and he told me what was going on and that he didn't necessarily want to do it but it's just part of the business," said Elliott, who signed a six-year, $90 million extension in 2019.
Elliott, who had a career-low 876 rushing yards last season, said there was "minimum" talk about a potential return to the Cowboys on a reduced contract. He won two rushing titles (2016, 2018) and had four 1,000-yard seasons, slotting behind only Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, and Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett on the Cowboys' all-time rushing yardage list.
He did not sign with the Patriots until Aug. 16 -- after training camp had started. In three games with New England, Elliott has 122 yards on 28 carries and has caught six passes for 21 yards.
"I think I have plenty left in the tank," Elliott said. "I still think I'm a very good back."
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons said Elliott's "presence and the joy he brings to the locker room" is missed. Monday, coach Mike McCarthy said Elliott's name continues to come up at least once a week in meetings.
Pollard, who is fifth in the NFL in rushing with 264 yards on 62 carries in three games, credits Elliott for mentoring him.
"He's had a great influence on me playing this game, just watching him, just watching how he does things, how he approaches things, his preparation throughout the week, his film study and things like that," Pollard said. "Just trying to pick his brain, growing with him over time."
The Cowboys are planning some kind of tribute to Elliott before kickoff.
"I don't know what I'm necessarily expecting," Elliott said. "It's definitely going to be weird, just being in a different uniform, being in the visitor's locker room. But I think it'll just be a good experience kind of seeing the fans again."