FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The NFL is trying to accelerate the timeline in its appeal of a federal judge’s injunction that blocked Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over a domestic violence case.
The NFL quickly answered a filing from Elliott’s attorneys Wednesday, telling U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant that the league would immediately go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans if he didn’t rule on its request for a stay of his injunction by Thursday.
The legal maneuverings are unlikely to keep last year’s NFL rushing leader from playing Sunday at Denver. He had already been cleared to play in a season-opening win over the New York Giants before Mazzant granted his request for an injunction.
The NFL had until Friday to respond to arguments from Elliott’s camp against Mazzant putting his injunction on hold pending hearings. In that scenario, Mazzant wouldn’t have ruled until next week.
“If this court declines to grant relief, respondents intend to seek a stay from the Court of Appeals and believe it is important to give the Court of Appeals the opportunity to act promptly,” NFL attorneys wrote.
The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell last month, and attorneys representing Elliott for the NFL Players’ Association contended in a lawsuit that Elliott didn’t get a fair hearing in an appeal that was denied.
Elliott was suspended after the league concluded he had several physical confrontations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided about a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence.
In their latest filing, attorneys for Elliott argue that the NFL can’t meet the standard for irreparable harm because the league can still suspend the Dallas star if its wins on appeal.
The league argues that the harm is in Mazzant’s ruling interfering with a labor deal that was approved by both sides.
“Petitioner should not be allowed to evade its CBA obligations by delaying suspensions indefinitely through the courts,” NFL attorneys wrote.
A notice has been filed with the federal appeals court, but future filings with the three-judge panel in New Orleans have been on hold while the league followed the procedure of asking Mazzant for a stay of his ruling.
The NFL said its conclusions in suspending Elliott after a yearlong investigation were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence. The running back denied the allegations under oath during the appeal.
The league has argued that it acted within the parameters of a labor agreement that gives Goodell broad authority to suspend players, and that the appeal process was consistent with its personal conduct policy.
Attorneys for Elliott contended that the appeal hearing before Harold Henderson was unfair because Henderson barred Thompson and Goodell from testifying and excluded notes from the investigation that were favorable to Elliott. Mazzant’s ruling for the injunction largely agreed.
Elliott, who had 1,631 yards rushing last year as a rookie, finished with 104 yards in the 19-3 win over the Giants.
More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL