EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The news that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for the first six games of the NFL season has the potential to cause a seismic shift in the NFC East. But it didn't cause many waves in the Giants locker room.
As far as the Giants are concerned, the Cowboys will be tough to beat in the regular season opener with or without the NFL's best young running back. So the news didn't change their outlook on the season one bit.
I don't care," said Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas. "We get them how we get them. But they're still Dallas now. They still have a very good young quarterback who had a good, strong rookie year. They've got a strong receiver on the outside, one of the better slot receivers in the game, one of the greatest tight ends I ever played against. Those guys are still there. Their O-line is still intact."
"They're still Dallas. They just don't have the stud running back, but they have good guys that could be running the ball behind a great line."
That may be true, but there's no doubt the Cowboys will be impacted by losing Elliott, who ran for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns, and was named an all-pro last season. But he drew the suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy for domestic violence incidents more than a year ago. The NFL said in a letter to Elliott that its investigation determined he attacked his ex-girlfriend "on multiple occasions."
Elliott has announced he will appeal, and that appeal is expected to be held on Opening Day.
Some in the Giants locker room hope he wins his appeal. For some, it was because of a friendship with Elliott. For others, it was because of a belief that he did nothing wrong. And for some, it was out of a desire to face the defending NFC East champions at full strength on Sunday night, Sept. 10 in Dallas.
"You want to play against the best to become the best," said safety Landon Collins. "He's one of the best out there now, so you want to play against the best to prove yourself as a defense as a whole and not want to hear the backlash of 'This person wasn't there'."
The Giants, of course, beat the Dallas Cowboys twice last season, including once in Dallas on Opening Day. Regardless of that, and whether Elliott is on the field or not, they know they will still have their hands full.
"They've got a lot of other weapons out there on that field, and they've got guys that are probably going to step up," said defensive end Olivier Vernon. "It's still going to be a division game, whether he's suspended or not. We're still going to be in their home,"
"They still have the same offensive coordinator and they're still going to run the same plays with or without Zeke," Collins added. "They did it before Zeke was there and they're going to do it after."
"I mean, he's a really good back -- don't get it twisted," Casillas added. "But take away him and plug in any decent back, you can still get decent yards with that great o-line they have."