Could Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott play vs. Giants in Week 1 with legal hail mary? – NJ.com

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EAST RUTHERFORD — The only way Ezekiel Elliott plays against the Giants in Week 1, in all likelihood, is if he sues his way onto the field.

Therein lies the question the Giants, and many others, may find themselves asking in a few days or weeks: Could the Cowboys’ star running back get his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy delayed thanks to legal maneuvering?

Elliott is expected to appeal the league’s decision to discipline him after a lengthy investigation of domestic violence allegations made against him. Elliott has three business days, dating back to Friday’s suspension announcement, to appeal the suspension. The league then has to hear his appeal within 10 business days.

Elliott’s appeal will be heard before the Giants’ season opener in Dallas against the Cowboys on Sept. 10. Elliott is likely to lose that appeal outright, though, with a minimal chance for a suspension reduction. Even if the ban is reduced, he would still miss the Giants game.

However, if Elliott were to lose his NFL appeal, he could decide to take the league to court like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after his Deflategate suspension.

Elliott would be a heavy underdog to ultimately prevail if there is a legal battle, according to Sports Illustrated’s legal expert Michael McCann. The running back may be able to delay the suspension with a court injunction, though, which could put him on the field in Week 1.

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Here’s what McCann had to say about the possibility Elliott could pick up a short-term win over the NFL:

[T]he Cowboys’ first regular season game will be played on Sept. 10. This leaves Elliott slightly less than one month to try to eradicate the pending suspension before it precludes him from playing in an actual game. If Elliott’s potential case hasn’t been resolved in court before Sept. 10, he would likely then petition a judge to issue a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order. If such a remedy were granted, it would essentially suspend the six-game suspension until Elliott has his day in court.

Injunctions are considered extraordinary remedies and petitions for them are usually rejected. Among other points, Elliott would need to convince a judge that he would suffer irreparable harm if he misses any games. Elliott would emphasize that he would never be able to get those games back. In response, the NFL would stress that Elliott could be reimbursed for lost wages plus interest if he later prevailed in court. As an advantage for the NFL, courts are often skeptical that a particular harm is “irreparable” if money damages can later repair it.

McCann also writes both Elliott’s camp and the NFL would likely do some court shopping if the dispute is escalated after the appeal. McCann said the NFL would likely move to file suit against Elliott in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

That court has ruled in favor of the NFL multiple times in the past, including in the Brady case (eventually). The league has a built-in advantage of knowing when it will announce its appeal decision, McCann writes, so the NFL usually beats the other party to the punch. The party that files first tends to get a case heard in its chosen venue.

Elliott would try to file a suit in any other court, McCann writes:

Perhaps Elliott would sue in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio since some of the allegations concern events that took place there. Or he might sue in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas since he is employed in Dallas. Another option: the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia since the NFLPA is headquartered there.

McCann also mentions the possibility Elliott could sue the NFL in Texas state court and argue the NFL has defamed him to what may be a friendlier audience. Judges are elected in Texas, after all.

McCann doesn’t weigh in on how likely Elliott would be to get an injunction if it came to that. But it is a real possibility. Elliott is suspended for Week 1, and will likely not play against the Giants. Nothing is official until the ball is kicked off on Sunday Night Football and he’s not in uniform, though.

James Kratch may be reached at jkratch@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch. Find our Giants coverage on Facebook.

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