FRISCO, Texas — On Sunday, running back Ezekiel Elliott returns to AT&T Stadium with the New England Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET).
For seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, he was the heartbeat of a team that went to the playoffs four times. Twice he was an NFL rushing champ, four times he ran for 1,000 yards and he is the Cowboys’ third all-time leading rusher behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.
A decline in production and a large salary-cap figure, plus the growth of Tony Pollard, led the Cowboys to release Elliott on March 15. While the move was not surprising, it was met with disappointment from some players who grew close to Elliott over the years.
“He’s always going to be loved here,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The love that he has still today in the locker room is tremendous. He’s probably in my time, our time together, was clearly probably one of the most popular players. I mean he’s a tremendous teammate. He still is. I mean, his name usually comes up once a week. Great guy.”
Elliott was not without his issues while in Dallas, as he was suspended six games in 2017 for violating the personal conduct policy for an incident involving a former girlfriend that occurred while he was at Ohio State, but those ESPN spoke to painted a picture of a gracious and humble teammate and community member.
Here is what Elliott meant to some former teammates and the North Texas community.
Drafted together in 2016, they quickly became best friends. During their first rookie camp together, Prescott had a car, Elliott didn’t — and one time Elliott left a $5 million check in Prescott’s car. The quarterback immediately called Elliott and said, “Come pick this up, I won’t make this in the next four years.”
On Thursday, Prescott said, “This locker room has always been special. And I’ve had a lot of teammates come from other places. Mark [Sanchez] told me my rookie year that not all locker rooms are like this, but we’ve got a great camaraderie. I give credit to the leaders in that locker room, the people that have played here in the time that I’ve been here. I don’t think it’s hard.
“Obviously, the relationship me and Zeke have, it’s different. Came in together, played on this this team seven years strong, on and off the field together. That relationship had a little bit more time invested, I guess you could say.”
RB Tony Pollard
Pollard was a rookie in 2019 when Elliott held out of training camp. Pollard was so good that owner and general manager Jerry Jones facetiously said, “Zeke who?” after a preseason game. Over the years, Elliott became a mentor to Pollard.
“He’s had a great influence on me playing this game, just watching him, just watching how he does things, how he approaches things, his preparation throughout the week, his film study and things like that. Just trying to pick his brain, growing with him over time.”
Coach Mike McCarthy
In 2016, McCarthy was head coach of the Green Bay Packers when the Cowboys visited Lambeau Field in October. Elliott was coming off three straight games with at least 134 yards rushing and would add a fourth with 157 yards in a 30-16 Cowboys’ win against Green Bay.
“I told him this, and I don’t mean this in a funny way or anything, but I just remember my first impression of Zeke in 2016. He broke a run down our sideline and it was the side I was on at that time. And I just remember as he ran by me for a long run, I thought, ‘My God, that guy’s got a big head. That’s a big man.’
“I’ve always been so impressed with him. He was just such a big, physical runner. I think you watch guys on TV, you see them, I didn’t realize he was that big and that thick. And especially the speed and his tenacity, the way he played. Then, obviously, having the opportunity to work with him, just very enjoyable. I enjoyed our time together.”
Lamb was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he never had an initial offseason program. He had to learn things on his own.
“When I first got in, he was the first person that invited me over to his [home], kinda accepted me as a teammate. We chilled. We vibed. And he said, the first thing, like, ‘Enjoy my body the way I felt when I came in, because that’s the best I’m ever going to feel.’
“That’s probably the most true thing, most factual statement that he could have ever given me. I mean you can’t train for it. Yeah, I do my best on recovery, but you can’t change what’s happening in a game. Facts.”
When Prescott broke his thumb in last year’s season opener, Rush became the starter. He had won his only other start in 2021, but now he would have a multi-week run with Prescott out. He ended up going 4-1, keeping the Cowboys’ playoff chances alive upon Prescott’s return.
“[Elliott] said, ‘We got you. Don’t worry.’ That’s how he is with anybody that’s new in there, a new O-lineman or a new tight end or anybody. That’s kind of his attitude. I think that’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough, just how good of a teammate he was.
“He brought energy for sure. And toughness. Like he’ll do whatever. He played fullback for us; he cracked on defensive ends; he just wants to hit somebody. He’s not out there yelling for 25 carries. He’s playing on third down, pass blocking his butt off. He took pride in all that stuff and everyone in the room felt that.”
In 2015, Toynes and Xavier Henderson founded For Oak Cliff, a non-profit organization to help an under-served community in south Dallas. A few years ago, Elliott became involved in their organization and has helped financially and with his time. In fact, a few days before he signed with the Patriots, he attended their Back to School Festival that had more than 4,000 people in attendance.
“It’s not about the football player. At the end of the day, it’s about the person, about the man. For me, it shows true to his character, his integrity. That’s one thing I talk to the young kids in our space about. You character, your integrity are things you do when nobody’s watching.
“When I think about Zeke, that’s him. He’s doing things when people aren’t watching. It’s not like he’s telling me, ‘Hey, I’m going to show up with ESPN and make myself look good.’ It’s ‘I’ve got some time. I want to help.’
“The kids know him as a Cowboy, but at the same time if you watch Zeke play basketball with our team, they’re talking noise like he’s some guy out of the neighborhood, ‘You can’t hold me,’ all that stuff. His relationship means a lot to us.”
McFarland is a Major with the Salvation Army, an organization with deep ties to the Cowboys. Each year the Cowboys kick off the Red Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army, and when Elliott would jump into the giant kettle in the end zone as a celebration after a score, the donations would increase.
“I can’t say we were able to quantify what the contributions were every time he’d jump in, but what I can tell you is any time somebody jumped into the kettle, we did see an increase in donations that would come in — and if he did it, especially, we would get $21 donations [matching Elliott’s uniform number]. I was able to talk to him about that last November, and he was blown away.
“Years later, it was still having the same impact. He came to visit our Angel Tree operation in Dallas last Christmas. Every time I had encountered him, he is so gracious and so very humble. We were walking around the warehouse and he was looking at the operation when I asked him, ‘Did you learn about philanthropy when you came into the NFL?’ and he said, ‘No, ma’am.’
“He was raised in a family that gave back to the community, and I thought that was beautiful. He saw his parents give back to the community, so it was in his DNA. So when he came to the Cowboys and to the NFL, what happened was the foundation was built upon and expanded.”
Dallas should work to keep Mavericks in the city, council members say
Some Dallas City Council members say as the sale of the Dallas Mavericks looms, the city should start working now to prevent the NBA franchise from leaving.
Members of the council’s ad hoc committee on pro sports recruitment and retention say that includes being open to a new arena for the team and some are prepared to get behind the vision of a connected casino-resort in Dallas.
“We need to keep the ‘Dallas’ in the Dallas Mavericks, and I think this is an opportunity to have those talks sooner rather than later,” said council member Paula Blackmon.
Last week, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he is selling a majority stake in the team to the family that runs the Las Vegas Sands casino and resort company. Cuban would maintain operational control of the franchise but would give up his role of majority stakeholder.
The company is controlled by billionaire Miriam Adelson, widow of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and would make up the first principal owners in team history who are not North Texans. The deal still needs to be finalized and approved by the NBA Board of Governors.
Cuban told The Dallas Morning News in an email late Monday that he “can’t really say anything right now” regarding the team sale. But he was adamant about the team staying in the city.
“I will say on the record the team is not moving anywhere,” Cuban said. “We are the DALLAS Mavs.”
Cuban told The News in December 2022 that he hoped to team with Las Vegas Sands to build an arena in the middle of a resort and casino in Dallas. But Texas would have to legalize gambling first.
“Texas is such an amazing state that we need to be a destination. And this is the way to do it,” Cuban said then. “And partnering with the Sands Corporation, literally there’s no reason why we can’t build a huge resort destination in the city proper of Dallas. There’s plenty of places to do it.”
The Mavericks share the American Airlines Center with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Officials with the Stars say they want their team to stay at the arena for the foreseeable future. The lease agreements for the Mavericks and the Stars at the arena expire in July 2031.
A new arena
Five council members on the seven-member pro sports committee said they knew of no talk of the Mavericks considering a move out of the city nor any plans for a new arena.
Council members Blackmon, Zarin Gracey and Jesse Morenosaid they would consider a new arena for the team, but differed on how it should be financed. Gracey, the committee’s chair, and Blackmon said they are not opposed to at least some of it being backed by taxpayer money, but both said they would need to know the terms before signing off on anything.
“I don’t want to end up in another situation like we had when the Cowboys were considering Fair Park,” said Gracey, referring to when the Dallas Cowboys expressed interest in moving from the Texas Stadium in Irving to build a new $650 million stadium in Dallas’ Fair Park in 2004. The team ultimately ended negotiations with Dallas County over not agreeing on a vision for the new stadium, which would have included $425 million in public money. The Cowboys moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“We should do what the voters want,” Gracey said. “But within reason, I think we should try to do what we can to keep the Mavs here.”
Moreno said he would support a funding method similar to the American Airlines Center. Dallas voters in 1998 approved $140 million in bonds to be paid by hotel and rental car taxes. The surrounding area was also redeveloped.
“I would prefer something similar to how we’ve used it before,” said Moreno, whose district includes the American Airlines Center. “But I believe that the Mavericks are also capable of doing this on their own.”
Council members Omar Narvaez and Jaynie Schultz said they thought it was too early to be talking about new venues for the NBA team.
“I think it’s premature to even start thinking about that,” said Narvaez. “There would be a lot of detail that would have to go into something like building a new arena.”
Mayor Eric Johnsonand council member Jaime Resendez, two other committee members, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The committee was created by Johnson in May 2022 in the aftermath of his publicly calling for a second North Texas NFL franchise that would play in Dallas. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones rejected the idea and it has gained little traction outside of discussion on social media.
The committee is meant to come up with ways to bring more pro sports franchises and events to the city, as well as keep existing ones.
The committee has met only once, in September 2022. Among the topics they discussed at the time were the economic impact of the American Airlines Center and an overview of the Dallas Open Tennis Tournament.
Tournament officials announced on Nov. 29 that the event will be moving to The Star in Frisco starting in 2025.
Johnson announced Gracey as the new chair of the ad hoc council committee in August.
In a statement last Wednesday, the two families that head the Las Vegas Sands Corp. said they hope to close the Mavs sale by the end of December.
Lexi Schuchert, director of communications advisory firm TrailRunner International, which has represented the families, declined to comment on whether they would pursue a new arena and if they want to keep the team in Dallas.
“Think big and bold and see if it will work.”
Gracey said he intends for the ad hoc committee to meet again early next year, and that the Mavericks and the Dallas Open could be topics up for discussion.
He said he believes if the city opts to move forward with a new arena where the Mavericks would play, that it should be near the downtown convention center. The city is in the midst of planning for the estimated nearly $3 billion tear down and rebuild of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Gracey said he believed it would “change the landscape of downtown Dallas” to add a Mavericks arena and a possible casino resort to ongoing convention center plans, along with others to renovate the existing convention center arena and to redevelop the area.
“That’s a national recognition type of development, to me,” said Gracey, noting that it could be the key piece of a new walkable, entertainment district running from The Cedars up to near City Hall and including the AT&T Discovery District. “We’re already excited about what a new convention center could do, but I think if you add those other components to it, it adds another layer of entertainment to the area.”
Blackmon said she believes all options should be on the table with redevelopment of the convention center area now that a new arena could be in play.
“I think we should look at the whole area’s land use and not be restricted by X, Y, or Z,” she said. “Think big and bold and see if it will work.”
She said the city should start planning for a potential arena and casino resort combo so they aren’t starting from zero if state laws change. She also said she believed the city should keep engaging in discussions with the NBA, Cuban and the Adelsons on what they would need to keep partnering with the city.
“If I was a surrounding city, I would see all of this as a door cracking open, so I would try to put my foot in it,” Blackmon said. “And what we as a city need to do is make sure that we do not shut the door on those communications and conversations with the people that make these decisions.”
Moreno said he would want to first see if the team is open to remaining at the American Airlines Center in the future. He mentioned recent $20 millions in upgrades to the venue, including a new $10 million video board.
“We’re going to have to ensure that we are looking at this holistically and that we are planning on what American Airlines Center looks like five, 10, 15 years down the road,” Moreno said. “I think it still has life left in it. I believe that the AAC is still one of the most significant arenas around the country and that it’s one of the most beautiful architecturally sound arenas that we have.”
Schultz said she believed that there were other areas of the city a new arena could also go. She pointed to the International District in North Dallas, an area she represents, and spots in southern Dallas such as near the University of North Texas – Dallas campus. Hundreds of single-family homes, thousands of apartments and more than a million square feet of commercial space across 270 acres are also planned for the area.
Schultz said she believed the Mavericks organization would give Dallas a fair opportunity to fight for them to stay if they were considering leaving the city. She said she believed the variety of locations and the size of Dallas make it the most viable option.
“I don’t know how many acres they would need, but we have it and could make it happen for sure,” Schultz said. “There are several locations in the city of Dallas that would be a terrific fit with accessible highways, DART lines and centrally located to the fan base, and that is something that none of the suburbs have.”
Betting NFL Week 14: Philadelphia at Dallas
Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers’ win Sunday in Philadelphia over Jalen Hurts and the Eagles was singularly large in terms of the regular season standings and postseason seeding. It also served maybe not a coming out party for Brock Purdy but certainly a verification of his efficiency and ability to lead the Niners on a deep playoff run.
That said, because the 49ers prevailed this past weekend, this Sunday Night’s game may unseat that matchup as the biggest game of the year. From ownership of the division and conference to individual futures markets, the Eagles and the Cowboys take to the field in Arlington with an amazing amount at stake for bettors and the outcome will dictate how each team and every bettor approaches the final handful of regular season games.
Lets break it down by team and then examine player futures.
Philadelphia Eagles to Win the NFC East
That ship sailed prior to Philly’s win over the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. There is no value at the current price (-475). Remember that for the Eagles to lose the NFC East, they must lose this weekend and one other time this season assuming Dallas then runs the table. The latter is unlikely with games at Buffalo and at Miami remaining after this weekend’s tilt. If you are not already holding a ticket, keep your money in your pocket.
Dallas Cowboys to Win the NFC East
It would take more than a win by Dak Prescott and co. to move the Eagles (-475) out of the top spot in the NFC East. However, a Dallas win and their division hopes remain alive (+380). You will not see a better number on Dallas to win the division number that has any realistic hope of cashing than what is currently offered at DraftKings for two reasons:
1) A loss by Dallas and the number improves but there will no longer be a realistic path to the division title for the Cowboys.
2) A win by Dallas and the odds lessen and that number will continue to shrink with each subsequent win. However, the Eagles’ schedule is so light after this week that ANY loss by the Cowboys down the stretch means Philly would need to lose two games in addition to losing Sunday. That is just not happening.
Again, not a market to chase at this point in the season.
Bet the Edge is your source for the day in sports betting. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight weekdays at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Philadelphia Eagles to Win the NFC
The Eagles current odds to win the NFC (+250) still offers value as Hurts and co. remain the top seed in the conference. However, if you want a piece of Philadelphia to win the NFC, consider waiting a week. A loss this weekend at Dallas will see those odds grow. That loss will mean a drop to the 2-seed, but the Eagles’ remaining schedule is a walk while the 49ers will have a game remaining at home against the Ravens on Christmas. Not to go down a rabbit hole, but that game at Levi Stadium could well be for the 1-seed in both the AFC and NFC and the MVP (Lamar vs. Purdy).
Dallas Cowboys to Win the NFC
The current odds (+425) do not offer any value as the one-seed is simply unrealistic. The Cowboys currently do not own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia or San Francisco. Expecting each to lose at least two of their remaining games is foolish. Again, keep your money in your pocket.
NFL MVP: Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts (+350) more than likely lost his shot at the league’s top individual honor with his performance Sunday. It is probably a bit unfair to say about the quarterback of a team that sports a record of 10-2, but Hurts has just not been especially good this season. That could change down the stretch, but it is unlikely voters will pay him further attention.
NFL MVP: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott (+350) does have a path to the MVP, but it is narrow. If you are not holding a Prescott Futures Ticket to win MVP, you are probably better off playing Dallas to win the NFC East (+380) instead because they are most definitely tied to each other. Much like the Cowboys can ill afford a loss the rest of the way if they hope to win the division, a loss at any point from here out also dooms Dak’s candidacy. Strike now if you believe in the NFL’s Man of the Year to win MVP.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Carter has come back to the field the last couple weeks really through no fault of his own. He is still the favorite (-200) but Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon (+300) and Houston’s Will Anderson (+400) have been factors for the Seahawks and Texans respectively. Carter is still the likely winner but is there value left at that number? The former Georgia Bulldog was available late preseason at +550 but that number quickly evaporated once Carter laid claim to a regular spot on that massive Philly defensive line.
Bet the Edge is your source for the day in sports betting. Get all of Jay Croucher and Drew Dinsick’s insight weekdays at 6AM ET right here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Defensive Player of the Year: Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
Myles Garrett’s injury and the mounting losses by the Browns have pushed the Dallas linebacker back to the position of favorite (+125) to claim the league’s top individual defensive honor. The number is a far cry from his odds back in August (+450). With the award routinely changing its dance partner, is there room for an outsider to join TJ Watt, Myles Garrett, and Micah Parsons in the chase? If so….
Defensive Player of the Year: DaRon Bland, Dallas Cowboys
A darkhorse in the race for the award, Bland (+1500) has been a revelation in Dallas stepping into the void left when Trevon Diggs was lost for the season with a knee injury. Eight interceptions and five picks for six later, Bland is threatening to crash the party for DPOY. That said, it’s unlikely he cashes those tickets. First of all, voters have to be leaning to Micah Parsons at this point as the narrative for the past couple seasons is that he is the key to everything the Cowboys do on defense. If so, then how can we vote for Bland ahead of Parsons? Second, a cornerback is constantly on an island. No hiding or taking a play off without being exposed (e.g. Thursday night vs. Seattle). Bland is tasked with coming from too far behind to overtake the leaders from his corner position. That said, maybe Bland can pick up a few pointers down the stretch from fellow corner and teammate Stephon Gilmore who earned the award in 2019.
Coach of the Year: Nick Sirianni, Philadelphia Eagles
If he leads the Eagles to victory over the 49ers, Sirianni (+1400) is in position A to earn this award. However, despite sitting atop the NFL through 12 games even after Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, the Eagles’ leader gets little love. Last season proved this award is all about the eye test. Deemed to be in charge of one of the league’s super teams, this is a ticket not worth purchasing.
Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys
Further down the board is the Dallas Head Coach. McCarthy (+3000) is getting credit for helping raise the level of Prescott’s play, but any success the Cowboys have down the stretch will be attributed to Dak. Thus, while a Futures Ticket of Prescott to win MVP is not advised, it is far more likely to occur than McCarthy to be deemed the best coach in the NFL this season.
Amazing how many Futures tickets are simultaneously in play and in jeopardy in this single game this weekend.
Enjoy the game and enjoy the sweat.
*odds courtesy of DraftKings
Do Dallas parks improve equity and ‘intergenerational wealth?’ Some council members question that
Dallas Parks and Recreation officials — and a third-party consulting firm — say the city’s parks system is even more valuable than the last time it was examined nearly seven years ago. That’s according to a presentation during Monday’s Parks, Trails and the Environment Committee meeting.
According to the briefing, the parks system contributes to the city’s commercial real estate value, is driving the “sustained economic development” in Dallas and “meaningfully leading to equitable outcomes.”
But some council members questioned the firm’s data, the timing of their presentation — and how the parks system really adds to equity in the city.
Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold represents District 4 in southern Dallas. She says for her constituency, the narrative is different.
“I’m trying to figure out how you can use this data to say its going to promote all these attributes,” Arnold said. “But here we have parks in our communities but we’re not seeing those benefits.”
The briefing comes after the city’s bond taskforce voted to recommend nearly a third of the city’s capacity go toward parks and recreation.
In late November, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson used a portion of his State of the City address to defend the $350 million dollar parks and trails bond allocation — citing that when invested in correctly, the city gets “more bang for [the taxpayers] buck with parks and trails” than with anything else the city uses tax dollars on.
‘Even more valuable’
Candace Damon is the chair of the board at HR&A — the consulting firm hired by the city to evaluate the parks and recreation system in 2016. She says that study was focused on demonstrating that the city’s park system generates substantial economic value.
“What we did in that study was to compare how Dallas is investing in its park system to how similarly situated cities are investing,” Damon said during the meeting. “And then to estimate the value…of the park system in terms of how it contributes to real estate value, to tourism spending and to green infrastructure.”
Damon says when you look at those categories, the city’s park system produced around $678 million a year that “otherwise wouldn’t be rolling around in the Dallas economy,” and conservatively yields a 7 to 1 return on investment for every dollar spent. That’s despite the system being under resourced at the time of the study, according to Damon.
This year, the firm compared the 2016 data with current economic conditions and factored in more recent investments the parks department has made.
“And what we concluded is that if anything, the park system is even more valuable than it was in 2016,” Damon said.
But committee members questioned the findings — and asked for more information about how the data was collected.
“I’d like to see it broken down on how you are qualifying the return of investment and why is it done at such a broad level,” District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua said. “We have parks in our park system that shouldn’t even be compared to each other especially when we’re talking about profitability.”
Bazaldua said he still had questions about how this presentation about the parks system value worked with what the department has asked for in bond allocations.
The consultants also claim the Dallas parks system contributes to equity citywide — like “helping to build intergenerational wealth.” But some council members were not satisfied with the presentation and again asked for more information about the data collected for the study.
“Did you look at data that related to the lifeline of individuals in southern Dallas neighborhoods with the parks that exist now?” Arnold asked. “Do they not contribute anything at all?”
Damon said the firm did not look at health outcomes in southern Dallas compared to health outcome sin other parts of Dallas in 2023. And the original study did not look at equity either.
“We looked at tourism, we looked at environmental, we looked at commercial real estate value increments,” Damon said. “We think that analysis holds up…in addition we think that there are almost certainly significant equity outcomes that have been achieved and will be achieved with appropriate investment in the future.”
Damon says that assumption is based on “detailed analysis of other cities” compared to Dallas.
‘The bottom line’
The briefing is another chapter in the parks and recreation saga. As part of his reelection campaign, Johnson pushed for Dallas to be a leader in green spaces around the nation.
Since then, the city’s community bond taskforce — which is chaired by the president of the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board — voted to recommend a third of the city’s bond capacity go to the parks system.
Shortly after, a land group specifically focused on creating new parks in cities across Texas, briefed council members about a plan to use city-owned land for 15 new greenspaces.
The proposal also comes at a time when council members have directed city staff to evaluate the same real estate portfolio for other uses — like more housing or funding options to pay for billions in unfunded liabilities in the city’s Fire and Police Pension System.
Johnson also claimed during his late November address that the parks bond allocation is necessary — and it is “what the people of Dallas want” and what he wants “as your mayor.”
Critics of the bond recommendations say some of that money should be used for more housing. Currently, $100 million has been recommended for housing and homelessness.
Johnson said “historically government is simply not good at playing the role of a housing developer.”
Council members say while the understand the importance of greenspaces and parks — but say there are more pressing issues the city needs to deal with. Those include maintenance of current park facilities — and focusing out what Dallas residents say they need most.
“The bottom line is…we’re not against the parks,” Arnold said during Monday’s meeting. “It’s just please let us not try to show that the parks will be the great hope that will take us across the mark…we can take our families to the park, but we cannot live in the park.”
Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.
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