Exclusive: What Ezekiel Elliott thinks of returning to Dallas Cowboys

If Ezekiel Elliott had his way, he would have never left the Dallas Cowboys.

But after he was cut following the 2022 season, the former two-time NFL rushing champ said the team made little effort to resign him in free agency, even on a reduced deal.

So Elliott played last season with New England Patriots, first as a backup before starting the final five games. He proved to himself and ultimately to the Cowboys that he had enough juice in his legs to be a starter again.

When Elliott re-signed with the Cowboys on Monday it the culmination of a singularly focused offseason.

“This was my priority. Doing what I could do to get back here,” Elliott said in an exclusive interview with the Star-Telegram at the Eric Dickerson Charity Golf Tournament Monday afternoon. “I have a lot left to accomplished here. I’m excited to get back with the fellas and chase chase that ring.”

He will be back in the building at the Star in the Frisco, joining the team’s offseason program on Wednesday.

Elliott, who stands as the franchise’s third all-time leading rusher. said he has the same goals with quarterback Dak Prescott as they had when they came in together and took the league by storm in 2016.

Elliott was picked fourth overall in 2016 and Prescott was picked in the fourth round.

“From 2016, we’ve been working on building this franchise to get a chance to win the Super Bowl,” Elliott said. “That is obviously the priority. That’s the bar.”

Elliott said he believes he is in better positioned to help the Cowboys reach than goal than he was in 2022 when he struggled with a torn PCL.

“I think I’m good,” Elliott said. “My body felt really good last year. My body felt good all of last year. I got my physical. My PCL looks to be healed. So health wise I think that definitely better than when I left.”

Elliott said he learned a lot about himself during his time with New England that should serve him well in his second stint in Dallas.

“I can play at high level at other places,” Elliott said. “I went down to New England. It wasn’t a year we wanted. We struggled as a team. But it was it was cool to kind of get a taste of another franchise and see how things are done out the place.”

The Patriots finished 4-13 last season.

And Elliott had career lows in carries (184), rushing yards (642) rushing touchdowns (three), yards per carry (3.5), yards from scrimmage (955) and total touchdowns (five) during his one season with the Patriots.

What those numbers don’t say is that Elliott led the Patriots last season with 642 rushing yards on 184 carries with three touchdowns. He also had a team-high 51 catches for 313 yards and two scores.

He played all 17 games and showed enough to impress owner Jerry Jones as well as himself.

“I know this, I saw as recent as the end of the year, I saw Zeke play,” Jones said. “And I will tell you he’s good enough to be a starter.”

The Cowboys need of a leader for their running back room after Tony Pollard, Elliott’s replacement last season, signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

He returns as the most accomplished and more experienced member of a position group that includes the unheralded likes of Rico Dowdle, Malik Davis, Deuce Vaughn, Snoop Connor, undrafted rookie Nathaniel Peat and free-agent signee Royce Freeman.

“I feel like I’m still a starter,” Elliott said. “I got the chance to start down the stretch last year. I felt comfortable in that role. I looking forward to doing what I need to do for this team.”

In seven previous seasons with the Cowboys, Elliott rushed for 8,904 yards and 71 touchdowns on 2,065 carries. He also caught 305 passes for 2,336 yards and 12 touchdowns.