Eagles

Judge reinstates Ezekiel Elliott's 6-game suspension

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USA Today Images

Judge reinstates Ezekiel Elliott's 6-game suspension

NEW YORK -- A federal judge cleared the way Monday night for the NFL to enforce a six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla denied the request for a preliminary injunction from players' union attorneys working for Elliott. Failla put the ruling on hold for 24 hours to give Elliott's legal team time to appeal, a likely move.

It's the second time a federal ruling has overturned a reprieve that kept Elliott on the field. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court threw out a Texas court's injunction and ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit there.

The NFL briefly enforced Commissioner Roger Goodell's suspension before a judge sitting in for Failla in the Southern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the punishment for the second time.

If the suspension holds this time, Elliott will be out starting Sunday at home against Kansas City. He will be eligible to return for the final three games, starting Dec. 17 at Oakland. The Cowboys (4-3), defending NFC East champions, are in second place in the division.

Elliott attended the roughly two-hour hearing in New York on Monday, a day after rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-19 win at Washington. Last year's NFL rushing leader left court without speaking to reporters.

One of Elliott's lawyers and an NFL spokesman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment after the ruling.

The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended in August 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 denied the allegations under oath during his NFL appeal.

The suspension's announcement led to weeks of court filings, with NFL Players Association lawyers contending league investigators withheld key evidence from Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses.

Unlike three federal judges before her, Failla rejected most of those claims and backed the NFL's contention that it followed the collective bargaining agreement in suspending Elliott, and that those procedures were supported by federal labor law.

"Having negotiated with the NFLPA over the terms of a particular CBA, the NFL has an interest in obtaining the benefit of its bargain -- an interest that might well be eroded if courts such as this one were permitted to micromanage the disciplinary decisions of the commissioner," Failla wrote.

The judge also said some of the reasons for Elliott's claim that he would suffer irreparable harm with a suspension were speculative.

"And any individual honors Elliott might attain absent suspension depend on countless variables -- such as the Cowboys' overall offensive performance, his opponents' defensive performance, and Elliott's health -- that together render this alleged harm far too speculative to justify injunctive relief," Failla wrote.

Failla based some of her rulings on the NFL's successful appeal in the same jurisdiction in the Deflategate case that ended with New England quarterback Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension. Brady delayed the punishment more than a year by winning a district court ruling.

NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler argued before Failla that the hearing was "fundamentally unfair" because it downplayed the conclusion by an internal investigator that Thompson wasn't credible in her account.

Failla disagreed, writing that testimony from the NFL appeal hearing made it clear that Goodell was aware of the investigator's views.

She also backed the NFL's interest in timely penalties under its personal conduct policy, which three years ago was changed to stiffen penalties in domestic cases.

Elliott is third in the NFL in rushing with 690 yards in seven games. He's tied for the league lead with six rushing touchdowns.

Eagles' Jalen Mills returns home to Dallas to inspire on the field

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AP Images

Eagles' Jalen Mills returns home to Dallas to inspire on the field

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Perhaps no Eagles player enjoyed demolishing the Cowboys more than cornerback Jalen Mills.

You see, Mills, who starred in college at LSU, grew up in the Dallas area and got to play in front of his family and friends.

"It feels good, man," Mills said after the Eagles crushed the Cowboys, 37-9, at AT&T Stadium on Sunday Night Football (see Roob's observations).  

"And by me saying that, 9-1 feels good. Everything feels good. I think the biggest thing about it was we were doubted. Us being 8-1 and doubted, that just put a little more hunger in us, and you see what happens when you put a hungry team on the field."

Mills grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, not the worst of neighborhoods, but certainly not the best. His first job was selling local newspapers when he was 14 years old. He was determined to make something of himself, and football was his way out. 

He would go on to become a four-year starter in college with the Tigers and thrived in the competitive football hotbed that is the SEC. 

Because of character issues coming out of college, Mills' draft position took a nosedive in the 2016 NFL draft. Projected as a first- or second-round pick, he slid all the way to the Eagles' seventh-round pick at No. 233. But he has used that slight as motivation to succeed. His hard work and determination paid off. In his rookie year with the Birds last season, he played 65 percent of the defensive snaps. This year, he heard the whispers from doubters about not being good enough to man one of the cornerback spots full time. 

So far he has silenced his critics. Mills has played 99 percent of the snaps this season and his made very few mistakes. Against his hometown Cowboys on Sunday evening, Mills was in on seven tackles. For the season, he is second on the team in passes defended (13), second in total tackles (63) and tied for the team lead in interceptions (three).

And as for the Cowboys fans in his family, Mills told me they switched to Eagles loyalists the moment he was drafted. Why? Because he is the only one of those close to him who made it out of Oak Cliff, and he uses that as a means to give hope to others where he came from. 

"It's motivation for me." Mills said. "I know, in my mind and my heart, whoever it is older, younger, it doesn't matter. They're always looking up to me, and I can't let them down. So each and every day, that's how I approach the day, knowing somebody is looking up to me whether it's my family or friends."

That's a big responsibility for a 23-year-old to carry, but considering where he came from to get to where he, Mills has broad enough shoulders to carry that load.

Eagles snap counts: Rasul Douglas odd man out of secondary against Cowboys

Eagles snap counts: Rasul Douglas odd man out of secondary against Cowboys

For the first time since he was inactive in Week 1, Rasul Douglas didn't play a single defensive snap Sunday night against the Cowboys. 

Despite playing well over the last couple months, as expected, Douglas was the odd man out after the return of Ronald Darby. The fewest snaps Douglas played in any of the last eight games was 18. He rode the bench for Sunday's 37-9 win at AT&T Stadium (see Roob's observations)

Darby was able to play all 63 snaps, likely thanks to working on conditioning all week (see story). Darby took his snaps at the right cornerback position, while Jalen Mills manned the left side and also played all 63. Patrick Robinson played 43 snaps (68 percent). 

When Robinson wasn't on the field, Joe Walker was the Eagles' MIKE in their base package. He played 20 snaps (32 percent). 

Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham also played all 63 defensive snaps for the Eagles' defense. 

Derek Barnett had a strong game with two sacks. He played 32 snaps, just two fewer than starter Vinny Curry. 

On offense, LeGarrette Blount led the running backs with 30 snaps, followed by Corey Clement (19), Jay Ajayi (13) and Kenjon Barner (2). Barner made the most of his snaps, grabbing a huge catch and running for a touchdown (see story)

Ajayi actually played fewer snaps this week than he did in his Eagles debut (17 against Denver). 

This was the first time since Week 2 that Carson Wentz and all of his linemen played every snap. On Sunday that meant 64. 

Offense
Brandon Brooks - 64 snaps (100 percent)
Halapoulivaati Vaitai - 64 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski - 64 (100)
Jason Kelce - 64 (100)
Brandon Brooks - 64 (100)
Lane Johnson - 64 (100)
Zach Ertz - 60 (94)
Alshon Jeffery - 47 (73)
Nelson Agholor - 47 (73)
Torrey Smith - 42 (66)
LeGarrette Blount - 30 (47)
Brent Celek - 23 (36)
Corey Clement - 19 (30)
Trey Burton - 13 (20)
Marcus Johnson - 13 (20)
Jay Ajayi - 13 (20)
Mack Hollins - 10 (16)
Kenjon Barner - 2 (3)
Isaac Seumalo - 1 (2)

Defense
Malcolm Jenkins - 63 snaps (100 percent)
Jalen Mills - 63 (100)
Ronald Darby - 63 (100)
Nigel Bradham - 63 (100)
Rodney McLeod - 60 (95)
Mychal Kendricks - 56 (89)
Fletcher Cox - 46 (73)
Brandon Graham - 44 (70)
Patrick Robinson - 43 (68)
Vinny Curry - 34 (54)
Derek Barnett - 32 (51) 
Chris Long - 31 (49)
Tim Jernigan - 30 (48)
Joe Walker - 20 (32)
Destiny Vaeao - 20 (32)
Beau Allen - 15 (24)
Corey Graham - 10 (16)