How Ezekiel Elliott looked upon arrival after huge Cowboys extension

FRISCO, Texas — It must have felt like Christmas morning for Jason Garrett on Wednesday when he saw his prized offensive player, Ezekiel Elliott, show up for a breakfast meeting and walkthrough at the Cowboys training facility.

Hours earlier, Elliott ended his summer-long holdout by agreeing to a six-year, $90 million contract extension that makes him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. And then he was in a 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting, a walkthrough with his teammates and then took part in his first practice after missing all of training camp.

The end game is all about Elliott’s availability for Sunday’s season opener against the Giants, how much of a workload he’ll be able to handle and how effective he’ll be.

“He’s been a big part of our team, and we’re excited to have him back in the fold,” Garrett said Wednesday morning. “I’m excited. Zeke has been a big part of our team. He’s well-respected by everyone in our organization and he’s been a real important player for us, so it’s great to get him back in there.

“I know they (Elliott’s agent and Cowboys management) were working hard on it (Tuesday) night,” the Cowboys head coach said. “I was in those conversations, and this morning we woke up early found out the news and got him in here and he’s had a good day so far.”

Garrett said his first impression of Elliott is that “he’s in very good shape.”

“He looks good, but he hasn’t been practicing with pro football players, so we’ll just see how he fits back in,” Garrett said. “But he’s a quick study, he’s a smart guy who has an excellent football IQ. We’ll just see how he is and adjust accordingly as we go.”

Garrett said Elliott did not take part in any sort of conditioning run that players usually are required to go through at the start of training camp.

Asked how he’ll assess Elliott’s conditioning as the week progresses, Garrett said, “We’ll just watch him.”

“It’s probably real similar to any player coming back from an injury, (where) you have to use your eyes and the expertise of the trainers and strength staff, and then you have to get (the player’s) feedback,” Garrett said. “He knows himself better than anyone else. Hopefully, you’ve developed a trusting relationship where you can be open and honest with each other and how you evaluate the situations.”

Garrett’s message to Elliott when he saw him early in the morning?

“Just get back to work,” he said. “He dove right in this morning.”

When Elliott was suspended for six games during the 2017 season, he’d played the first eight games, rushing for 100 or more yards in four of them and 80 or more in seven of them, before sitting out six games and returning for the final two. He rushed for 97 yards on 24 carries in the first game back and 103 yards on 27 carries in his second game back.

Those circumstances, of course, were different from this, because Elliott had already been in the middle of his season when he was forced to sit out the six games.

“Every situation is different, and you just try your beset to gauge them and try to put the player and the team in the best position,” Garrett said when asked about ‘17. “He was with us all offseason and missed training camp, but he hadn’t really played preseason games in the past. There are a lot of things to weigh. The biggest thing is you get him back in here and get him back to work and you get feedback from him as to how he’s doing, you watch him and make your best judgment about when and how much to use him going forward.

“He’s an experienced player, he knows our system, knows a lot of the stuff we’re doing, he studies his stuff.”

Garrett called the fact that Elliott got into camp by early Wednesday so he had the full week of practice and preparation for the Giants “big,” adding, “Both sides wanted that to happen. I know Zeke wanted that to happen. He’s wanted to be there. Sometimes the business side of things get in the way. But he’s been champing at the bit, communicating with our players and coaches.

“I know it was important for him to get back in here, be in there for that 7:30 meeting, having a full day of preparation, getting ready for a big game against the Giants on Sunday.”

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