Jerry Jones backs Elliott, puts on pre-camp show for Cowboys

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OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Jerry Jones interjected some bad-boy anecdotes from his youth, smiled at the thought of life before social media and even asked a couple of questions himself Sunday at his annual training camp opener with reporters .

When the topic is the multitude of off-field issues confronting the Dallas Cowboys — headlined by star running back Ezekiel Elliott — their owner, president and general manager can dance with the best of them.

"I can give you the same old excuses — young, aggressive, got a lot of energy," Jones said. "Hard to paint that picture of the days when it won't be this easy, they won't be as pretty and they won't have the money. Somehow you've got to paint the picture."

Elliott is still waiting for clearance from the NFL on a year-old domestic violence case that prosecutors didn't pursue. The NFL rushing leader last season as a rookie, Elliott didn't help himself with his involvement in a bar fight a week before the Cowboys flew to California for camp.

Jones reiterated his belief that Elliott wasn't guilty of domestic violence in a dispute with his ex-girlfriend last summer in Columbus, Ohio, where he starred for Ohio State. But the Dallas owner still wouldn't speculate on whether Elliott will get suspended.

The Cowboys will have two suspended defensive players when the season starts in pass rushers David Irving and Randy Gregory. Two more could be: cornerback Nolan Carroll (drunken-driving charge) and linebacker Damien Wilson (aggravated assault charges).

Receiver Dez Bryant was late to report at the team's practice facility in suburban Dallas on Friday, a day before he was on the team flight to California. Irving decided to stay in California rather than report in Texas, and running back Darren McFadden missed the charter flight.

Not enough for the week leading to camp, with the first practice Monday?

How about receiver Lucky Whitehead claiming his dog was taken and held for ransom before being returned? Or video surfacing of receiver Terrance Williams accepting a challenge to a footrace outside a strip club late one night?

Still doesn't faze Jones much with the Cowboys trying to follow a 13-3 season that was the best in the NFC before a divisional playoff loss to Green Bay.

"There's absolutely no impact on the spirit, or the enthusiasm or the expectation, which I would use those words in defining momentum and still not really know that I know what momentum is," Jones said. "You just can't let that deter going about your work and getting the job done."

Coach Jason Garrett continues to vouch for Elliott's character, despite the two most pressing issues and older episodes of visiting a legal marijuana shop in Seattle during the preseason last year and pulling down a woman's shirt during a St. Patrick's Day parade this past spring.

"We believe in Zeke Elliott," Garrett said about last year's fourth overall pick. "It's incumbent upon all of us, everybody in our organization — coaches, players, everybody who is connected with Zeke — to help him understand the importance of making good decisions."

Jones, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month, had several unprompted answers, usually to tell one of the stories that may or may not make the cut for his acceptance speech.

The 74-year-old twice asked son Stephen, executive vice president of personnel, to take on questions — including one on how risk-reward relates to building a roster.

If the Cowboys can be called a circus again — like in the 1990s when they were winning Super Bowls with tabloid headlines from receiver Michael Irvin — then it's clear they have a ringleader.

"It's not a tolerance," Jones said. "There is no question that when you're not available, it hurts everybody counting on you, particularly our fans. There's no question the implication involved in any infraction shines on us all."


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