Ezekiel Elliott is used to twice the load he carried in the opener for the Dallas Cowboys after the star running back missed the entire preseason in a holdout.
The two-time rushing champion says he never had a moment in the 35-17 win over the New York Giants where he felt he wasn’t quite ready for game speed, and Elliott isn’t the type to say he would prefer another incremental step to a full workload at Washington (0-1) on Sunday.
“I think I’m ready now for a normal workload,” Elliott said Wednesday. “It just depends on how … (the coaches) are feeling on Sunday. But if they ask, I’ll be able to go out there and do it.”
There were a few moments against the Giants when Elliott didn’t look quite like himself, including in the third quarter on a 2-yard run when there appeared to be room for more. Not long after, though, Elliott had a seam on the left side and took his final carry 10 yards for a touchdown.
Elliott, who averaged 25 touches per game during his first three seasons, had 13 carries for 53 yards and one catch for 10 against New York while playing 54% of the snaps (37 of 68).
His first practice was four days before the game, the same day he signed a $90 million, six-year contract extension that could keep him in Dallas through 2026. Coach Jason Garrett said his snap count was almost 30 at halftime, and the Cowboys (1-0) didn’t want to go much beyond that.
“I thought he did a really good job in the game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “There’s no question he kept himself in really good shape. His weight was good. And for the time that he missed, I thought he handled the work really well.”
It’s not the first time Elliott has started the season without playing a snap in the preseason — he did that last year. And it’s not the first time he has faced a quick turnaround to a game after working out on his own in Mexico — he did that two years ago during a six-game suspension.
But it was the first time Elliott had played without any practice in training camp.
“It was a little weird jumping right into things, not having camp and having to adjust,” he said.
The Cowboys had the luxury of sitting Elliott the entire fourth quarter because his TD gave Dallas a 35-10 lead late in the third. Rookie Tony Pollard had just 13 yards on nine carries in the fourth and finished with 24 yards on 13 rushes.
“I think I could have been in there a little bit more,” said Elliott, whose 14 touches were just one more than his career low. “But we had a certain plan and we’re going to keep taking steps toward it.”
Garrett probably won’t offer much insight into that plan before the Cowboys play the Redskins.
“We’ll just see how he practices, see how he comes out of the game,” Garrett said the day after the New York game.
Elliott said his soreness was “tolerable,” and that the process to get himself in game shape continues.
“Just getting as many full speed football looks as you can,” Elliott said. “It’s kinda hard to simulate in practice, but I’m doing everything I can on my end to put myself in those football situations and get used to them.”
AP Only 2019