Jerry Jones believes a stress-free Ezekiel Elliott is primed for a big season

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is heading into the 2018 season footloose and stress-free.

A year ago Elliott had to endure an offseason filled with controversy and the weight of a year-long NFL investigation hanging over his head. He was then suspended in training camp for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy before battling the decision in court through the first eights of the season.

And that was before he had to serve the six-game suspension, resulting in a 3-3 record for the Cowboys and ultimately being the biggest difference in them finishing 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

That is all in the past for Elliott now.

Owner Jerry Jones believes it will pay off big for the Cowboys and Elliott, whose only concern now is getting in the best shape he can to run, score touchdowns and help the Cowboys win.

“I think that not having to address that mentally and physically, not having to think about not only the interruption of the potential suspension and the suspension but just the physical interruption, the physical aspect of that,” Jones said at the team’s annual golf tournament. “But from the standpoint of mentally, there is no question — I’m 100 percent sure — to not have that on your mind, to not have the ambiguity of not knowing timelines, those kinds of things, there’s no doubt in my mind it will make a significant difference in how he can focus, how he can focus not only on the next practice but the next game and the entire season.”

“Yes, I think that I give him a big arrow (up) as to what his performance might be without the overhang of the issue he faced last year.”

In 10 games last year, Elliott rushed for 983 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries. He led the league in average yards per game.

Playing a full 16 games, Elliott hopes to get back to his rookie standard of 1,631 yards, if not more. Maybe, 2000-yard barrier is within reach for a stress-free and footloose Elliott.

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