The Dallas Cowboys finally have Ezekiel Elliott in the fold and now they will hope a 41-day holdout will not lead to some rust for the running back when they host the New York Giants in their season opener on Sunday.
"He's in very good shape, he looks good, but he hasn't been practicing with pro football players," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "We'll just see how he fits back in, but he's a quick study, he's a smart guy and he's got an excellent football IQ. We'll just see where he is and adjust accordingly as we go."
Shortly before Dallas began its first complete workout on Wednesday ahead of the season opener, Elliott agreed to a six-year, $90 million contract extension.
When he lines up in the backfield to start his fourth season, Elliott will be the league's highest-paid running back with $50 million guaranteed, and the $15 million per year breaks the standard set by the $14.4 million per season Todd Gurley got from the Rams last year.
Elliott was seeking a long-term deal as he entered the last season of his rookie contract. Quarterback Dak Prescott is in the same situation, but didn't hold out. The duo helped the Cowboys win the NFC East in two of the last three seasons, but Dallas has yet to get past the divisional round, extending a drought that goes back to the 1995 season.
"I feel good," Elliott said. "I'm excited to be back. I'm excited to be back on the field. I'm excited to go win some ballgames."
New York is entering its second season under coach Pat Shurmur. The Giants also are starting their first without wideout Odell Beckham Jr and possibly the last with quarterback Eli Manning as a starter.
Shurmur won five games last season after the Giants were 3-13 in 2017 and then the team traded Beckham to Cleveland. They used the No. 6 pick to select Daniel Jones out of Duke to eventually be Manning's successor.
The Giants also say they believe they bolstered their offensive line by acquiring Kevin Zeitler from Cleveland to give running back Saquon Barkley even more support after he rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season.
"It's the first game of the year, and we have to put our best foot forward," Shurmur said. "We have to do everything in our power to beat Dallas. That's the importance of it. I tell the players all the time, it's the players, not the plays. So, we have to get the players ready to play and go do it.
The quarterback transition could wind up being similar to when Kurt Warner began the 2004 season and Manning took over in the final weeks, but the Giants are not ready to proclaim when and if Jones will start a game this season.
Instead, they are focused on getting off to better starts. Since last winning the Super Bowl in the 2011 season, the Giants have won one season opener and are a combined 2-14 in the first half of the season in the last two campaigns.
"You always want to get off to a good start, that's always the goal," Manning said. "Right now, we just have to focus on our game plan, on the Cowboys, what they are doing, and we need to go out there and play well."
Dallas has won the last four meetings with the Giants and nine of the last 12.
--Field Level Media