DALLAS — The NFL suspended star Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games Friday, concluding after a yearlong investigation that the league rushing leader caused injuries to his then-girlfriend in three separate incidents last summer.
The ruling under the NFL’s personal conduct policy came despite prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, deciding nearly a year ago not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State.
According to the letter Elliott received informing him of the suspension, the NFL believed he used “physical force” three times in a span of five days in a Columbus apartment last July resulting in injuries to Tiffany Thompson’s face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, hips and knees.
The league said its investigation was based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence. Commissioner Roger Goodell made his decision based on the league’s investigation and in consultation with four advisers, including Hall of Fame player Ken Houston.
Elliott, who turned 22 last month, has three days to appeal the ruling. The NFL Players Association said it was reviewing the decision and had been in touch with Elliott’s representatives to consider his options.
The ruling requires Elliott to get an evaluation to determine whether he needs counseling or treatment, and to show proof that he is following up on any recommendations.
If Goodell’s ruling stands, Elliott will go on the suspended list the first week of the regular season and be eligible to return to the active roster Oct. 23. His first possible game would be Week 8 at Washington.
NFL special counsel for conduct Todd Jones wrote in the letter to Elliott that advisers “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that (Elliott) engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson on multiple occasions during the week of July 16, 2016.”
Last September, the office of Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer cited conflicting and inconsistent information in the evidence in deciding against criminal charges. Pfeiffer’s office declined comment Friday.
Peter Harvey, one of the advisers to Goodell, said the NFL had access to forensic electronic evidence that prosecutors didn’t have. Harvey said an example was proof that photographs were taken by Thompson the same day she alleged that she was injured by Elliott.
Harvey also said some of the explanations from Elliott’s representatives, including that Thompson was injured in a fight with a woman or by falling down stairs, weren’t supported by evidence.