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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t asked for a workload reduction.
His coaches have indicated they’ll reduce his carries anyway.
“It’s just physics,” running backs coach Gary Brown said last week at rookie minicamp. “Year after year with that type of workload, eventually anyone’s going to slow down. We’re trying to preempt that and take care of him now.”
The Cowboys offense will continue to hinge on run-first principles under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore. Moore wants to instill more versatility, but still play to Dallas’ strength of Elliott, a powerful offensive line and a dual-threat quarterback in Dak Prescott. Coaches plan for rookie Tony Pollard, their fourth-round selection out of Memphis, to play beside Elliott and spell the all-pro talent more than backups did his first three seasons. The goal: Keep Elliott fresh for December, January and “February if we get to the Super Bowl,” Brown said.
Elliott doesn’t want to slow.
“I haven’t worn down yet,” he said Wednesday, before he returned to chase veteran Sean Lee around the ballpark of the team’s annual charity fundraiser.
Elliott was a key cog for the 2018 Cowboys team that won the NFC East and a wild-card match over the Seahawks. He rushed 304 times and caught 77 passes for a total of 2,001 yards from scrimmage. Elliott touched the ball on more than 35 percent of Cowboys’ season offensive snaps in 2018, even though the team rested him in a Week 17 game without playoff implications.
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Elliott has led the league in rushing yards per game each season since the Cowboys drafted him fourth overall in 2016. But along the way, he’s raced to more than 1,000 regular-season touches across 40 games. So Cowboys management want to exercise caution with a player whom they say they’ll extend to a contract resembling the Rams’ four-year, $60 million ($45 million guaranteed) extension of Todd Gurley.
The team recently picked up Elliott’s fifth-year, $9 million option for 2020. The Cowboys have begun talks with Prescott’s representatives on an extension expected to be in the neighborhood of $30 million per year. Wide receiver Amari Cooper also anticipates an extension soon, with one year left on his deal.
Elliott is “a guy we want to have here long term,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said last week of Elliott. “The only reason you say, well maybe he’s not at the front (of the extension order) is because he’s got this year, then he’s got another year on his tender.
“But Zeke’s every bit as important.”
Elliott said Wednesday he’s not concerned about hurrying his extension. He knows how to block out the noise.
“Go out there and play football,” Elliott said. “Do what I’ve been doing.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.
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