Old school, but not old ways, Ezekiel Elliott to lead Cowboys running back by committee

It’s safe to say that Ezekiel Elliott has made a smooth and comfortable transition back into the Cowboys locker room after spending last year with the New England Patriots.

Cowboys coach Mike Mike McCarthy said it’s almost like Elliott, who was with the team from 2016-2022, almost never left.

That has made for interesting moments and flashbacks for McCarthy.

“He definitely puts you on guard because he’s old school,” McCarthy said. “He’ll go up and smack a 60-year-old man on the [butt}, and it hurts.”

A laughing McCarthy wasn’t complaining.

“It’s as natural of a transition that you’ll ever see,” said McCarthy. “he walked in and he had that unbelievable smile. It’s like he never left. Huge personality in the locker room. … But some things have changed for him as well — like protection systems — so he has some new learning, but it’s great to have him back.”

While Elliott is old school, the Cowboys have no illusions about him returning to his old ways and the old role when he won two NFL rushing titles as the team’s work horse running back.

McCarthy said it wouldn’t be “fair,” to ask Elliott to carry the ball as much as he did in his first tenure with the Cowboys, especially his first few years when he carried it as much as anyone in NFL history.

Elliott is not that same guy and Cowboys are not the same team.

“We’re a running back by committee (team), but I think he’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played at in my time here.”

Elliott will be part of a Cowboys running back room that currently includes Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Royce Freeman, Malik Davis, Snoop Connor and Nathaniel Peat.

Elliott averaged 4.0, 4.2 and 3.8 yards per carry from 2020-22 with Cowboys under McCarthy.

He played through knee injuries the last two seasons.

And he led the Patriots with 642 yards while averaging 3.5 yards per carry in 2023.

“I don’t see any drop-off in the way he moves,” McCarthy said of what he’s seen from Elliott in practice over the last two weeks. “He’s in good shape.”

Vice-president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys are fired up to have Elliott because “he is a pro and he’ll be ready.”

He said team’s move to a running back-by-committee approach is a league-wide trend. And the Cowboys may not be done adding to the position.

“That is the way we’re looking at it right now,” Jones said. “There will be some of that. A lot of teams do that and do it successful. A lot to teams have moved toward that because of the wear and tear that comes from this league. But we’re not done yet. We will continue to look at players look for ways to improve not only running back spot but any other position on this team.”