49ers

49ers expected to face Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys in Week 7

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USATSI

49ers expected to face Ezekiel Elliott-less Cowboys in Week 7

FRISCO, Texas  — A federal appeals court cleared the way Thursday for the NFL to impose a six-game suspension on Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott over domestic violence allegations, siding with the league in the latest high-profile fight over its ability to punish players for off-field behavior.

In a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans granted the league's emergency request to set aside an injunction and ordered a district court in Texas to dismiss Elliott's case.

The NFL announced that the suspension was effective immediately, though further appeals were possible and the Cowboys are not playing this weekend.

"We are currently exploring all of our legal options and will make a decision as to what is the best course of action in the next few days," Elliott attorney Frank Salzano said.

The Cowboys don't play again until next Sunday, Oct. 22, at San Francisco. If Elliott's legal team can't put the suspension on hold again, he won't be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at home against Washington, a Thursday night game the week after Thanksgiving. Elliott played the first five games as Dallas went 2-3 in a disappointing start.

A federal judge in Texas issued the injunction blocking the suspension last month, agreeing with NFL players' union attorneys who argued that the investigation of the allegations in Ohio and a subsequent appeal were unfair to Elliott, one of the league's standout running backs.

The NFL countered that it followed procedures under the league's labor deal and that the union improperly filed a lawsuit before the appeals process was complete.

The most likely destination for further legal challenges from players' union attorneys representing Elliott is with the Southern District of New York. The NFL filed in that federal court after Elliott's appeal through the league was denied by arbitrator Harold Henderson last month.

Last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time.

Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence.

Elliott's legal team filed the lawsuit on his behalf in the Eastern District of Texas before Henderson had rejected the appeal. The 5th Circuit agreed with the NFL's claim that the filing was premature.

"The procedures provided for in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA were not exhausted," Judges Jennifer Elrod and Edward Prado wrote for the majority. "The parties contracted to have an arbitrator make a final decision. That decision had not yet been issued."

In dissent, Judge James Graves disagreed that the suit was filed prematurely. Graves noted the union's argument that the league had violated the collective bargaining agreement because key information had been withheld from Goodell and Elliott's representatives before the suspension was ordered and the arbitrator's decision was based on incomplete information. The suit was properly filed in the district court because the arbitration process called for in the labor deal was not properly followed, Graves argued.

The NFL had already agreed to let Elliott play in the opener before his request for an injunction was granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman, north of Dallas. Henderson ruled against Elliott the same day Mazzant heard arguments over the injunction.

Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University Law School, noted that the opinion dealt only with jurisdictional issues and not the question of whether the NFL's appeals process was unfair to Elliott.

"This is certainly a significant setback," Feldman said. "But they still have a chance because this decision was not made on the merits of the case. He has yet to have a federal court rule against him on the merits. Until that happens, he still has a chance."

Elliott, who set a Dallas rookie franchise record with 1,631 yards rushing last season, is fourth in the NFL with 393 yards this year. He had a season-high 116 yards in a 35-31 loss to Green Bay on Sunday.

If the case shifts to federal court in New York, home to league headquarters and the site of Elliott's appeal hearing with Henderson, the venue is a familiar one. The NFL won the "Deflategate" decision in the New York court, leading to New England quarterback Tom Brady serving his four-game suspension a year after it was originally imposed. A federal judge had put Brady's suspension on hold.

Marquise Goodwin stays positive through more family tragedy

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AP

Marquise Goodwin stays positive through more family tragedy

SANTA CLARA – Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin revealed another tragedy struck his family this week.

Just five weeks after the death of his unborn child due to complications in pregnancy, Goodwin revealed his biological father passed away last week.

“I’m blessed,” Goodwin said after the 49ers’ 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans. “I’ve been dealing with a lot. I’m blessed. I’m thankful for the opportunity. God has shown me so much in this season. I had a lot going on this year losing my baby and I just recently lost my biological father this week.

“It’s just been a lot, but I really didn’t let the outside negative energy affect how I play, how I approach this game or how I come to work each day. I just kind of stayed positive and kept my mind fresh, and I relied on God to bring me through all of the situations that I’ve been through.”

Goodwin has played a key role in the 49ers’ three-game winning streak. On Sunday, he caught a career-high 10 passes for 114 yards in the 49ers’ win over the Titans. In the past three games, Goodwin has 24 receptions for 319 yards.

Goodwin has already posted the best numbers of his five-year NFL career with 51 receptions for 897 yards.

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 25-23 win over Titans

Three things you need to know from 49ers' 25-23 win over Titans

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 25-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15 on Sunday:

1. JIMMY DOES IT AGAIN
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has brought something special to the 49ers. The team won just once in its first 11 games of the season. Since Garoppolo took over as the starter, the 49ers are 3-0, including two late-game comebacks.

His performance Sunday was his best, as the 49ers took down the Titans – a team battling for a spot in the AFC playoffs.

The 49ers were trailing by one point with 1:07 remaining and had the ball at their own 25-yard line. Garoppolo immediately completed passes to Trent Taylor, George Kittle and Marquise Goodwin. And the next thing you know, the 49ers had moved 48 yards down the field for the game-winning field goal.

Garoppolo completed 31 of 43 pass attempts for 381 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was 106.8.

The 49ers are settling for way too many field goals, so all is not perfect. But considering where this team – where this offense – was before Garoppolo arrived on the scene, and it has been a remarkable transformation.

The 49ers rolled up 414 yards of total offense despite a sputtering run game. Garoppolo spread the ball around to nine different receivers – including himself. He made the ill-advised decision to hold onto a ball that came back at him after being deflected at the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo was quickly tackled for a 6-yard loss.

So, yes, he’s not perfect.

2. GOOD AS GOULD
As if five field goals and a streak of 19 accurate kicks in a row was not enough, Robbie Gould had to make one more on the final snap of the game to prevent what would have been a heart-breaking defeat.

Gould was true, making a 45-yarder as time expired, to go along with kicks of 38, 48, 28, 50 and 48 yards. He made five field goals two weeks ago against his former team, the Chicago Bears, in a 15-14 victory at Soldier Field.

In the past three weeks, Gould has made 15 field goals – something no kicker has done in NFL history over a three-game stretch.

Gould has made 36 of his 38 field-goal attempts (.947 accuracy) and already is second all-time in club history for made field goals in a season. David Akers made 44 in 2011.

3. THE SUPPORTING CAST
Every game during the 49ers’ three-game win streak there has been someone else who steps up in a big play. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, however, has been the constant.

Goodwin caught a career-high 10 passes for 114 yards, including an 11-yarder on the field drive that helped get the 49ers into range for Gould’s winning kick. In three games with Garoppolo as the starter, Goodwin has 24 receptions for 319 yards.

But he is not alone.

Tight end Garrett Celek had three catches for 63 yards. Rookie tight end George Kittle had a big 24-yard reception on the final drive and finished with 52 yards receiving. Undrafted rookie wideout Kendrick Bourne contributed four catches for 85 yards.

And on the defensive side, there was no play bigger than DeForest Buckner’s stop of DeMarco Murray on a third-and-2 play for no gain that forced the Titans to settle for Ryan Succop’s 50-yard field goal with 1:07 remaining and ensured the 49ers would have enough time for Garoppolo to work his magic.