Distraction-free Ezekiel Elliott: 'I plan on having a good year'

As seen in the “All or Nothing” series chronicling the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, when Ezekiel Elliott returned from a six-game suspension last season he apologetically told owner Jerry Jones he was ready to be the running back the team needs him to be.

With the suspension and the courtroom drama of last year behind him, Jones certainly believes Elliott is ready to live up to those expectations. He believes a distraction-free Elliott is primed for a big year in 2018.

Asked about his statement to Jones at the team’s annual Reliant Home Run Derby for the Salvation Army on Wednesday, Elliott said has always tried to be the best running back he can be for the Cowboys but wants to be even better in 2018.

“I think I have been that running back the team needs,” Elliott said. “I just want to continue to be that and be even better. … I wouldn’t say last year was a bad year for me. I played 10 games and had almost 1,000 yards. … I plan on having a good year.”

After rushing for an NFL-high 1,631 yards as a rookie in 2016, Elliott recorded 983 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games.

He is admittedly excited about the addition of 2018 second-round draft pick Connor Williams to the offensive line.

But there is no question that not having to deal with the drama of last year is a weight off of Elliott’s shoulders and should allow him to be mentally stronger and more focused in 2018.

Coach Jason Garrett said he has seen a serious-minded Elliott during their brief time together at off-season workouts.

He says he loves football and cares about it.

But Garrett acknowledges a season free of the distractions of a year ago will be good for Elliott and the team.

“He has always been a pretty focused guy and loves football,” Garrett said. “Not having that stuff is a relief to him. But he comes to work every day and wants to get better. It’s good for our team.”