Cowboys seeing leaner, more serious-minded Ezekiel Elliott; 'He's ready to go'

Compared to last year at this time, Gary Brown sees a different Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys star running back isn't dealing with the stress of an ongoing NFL personal conduct policy investigation and the swirl of speculation about whether he'd be suspended.

Brown, the team's running backs coach, saw a player who was "stressed out."

"He wasn't himself," Brown said. "He looked big."

Elliott entered training camp last week having had a quiet offseason off the field.

Now, Brown says he's seeing a "happy and jubilant" Elliott.

"He looks real fresh," Brown said. "He's getting his feet underneath him. He looks good. He's in great shape. Mentally, he's in the right place.

"He's leaner. His body fat is down. His weight is down. He's ready to go."

Elliott has averaged 24.8 touches per game through his first two seasons. He's expected to get more in 2018. The Cowboys have almost no shot at the playoffs without Elliott, so it's music to the team's ears when he says he's being more cautious off the field and more focused on it.

"I just think he's a lot more serious-minded," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "I actually think that he's learned a lot from his experience. I think it was difficult, and I think he went through some really difficult times. I think he stood for what he believed in last year, and certainly you're naïve to think there wasn't distractions in his mind from what he was going through week to week.

"I think he wants to be one of the great ones to play the game. I think he's a hard-working guy who knows what it takes, and I think it's a process. I think he continues to mature. ... I expect him to really step up, I think, and have a really great year this year."