With the Dallas Cowboys riding a four-game winning streak and leading the NFC East with a 4-1 record heading into Sunday’s game at the New England Patriots, always playful running back Ezekiel Elliott is in good spirits.
But don’t confuse that for him feeling good.
His back still hurts from landing on a pylon in last Sunday’s 44-20 victory against the New York Giants.
He has bruised ribs, and they are painful.
“Back, ribs. It’s ribs,” Elliott said as he began a visual demonstration with his hands going around his body after being limited in practice on Wednesday. You know your ribs go like WHEW … so it’s the ribs on the back side.”
So are those beef ribs or pork ribs?
”I don’t mess with the swine. I like the big beef rib,” said Elliott, who is also known for eating on the field and off the field. “I haven’t really ever been a person that ate pork.”
Now, that his rib preference has been clarified, let’s get back to the back of his ribs.
Elliott may not do much physically until the game on Sunday as he works to get his back ready and loose.
”Just like ice, stim, heat, best thing is heat just kind of loosen those muscles up around where I landed on it,” Elliott said in regards to the treatment plan. “But I mean what’s been working the best is heat. So from here until next week I’ll be in the hot tub.
“I might be a prune by the time we get to New England.”
Albeit shriveled and wrinkly, Elliott has no doubt about playing against the Patriots.
A knee injury hasn’t kept him off the field nor has it stopped him from eating the past two weeks, as he has recorded back-to-back 100-yard games against Panthers and Giants and ranks third in the league in rushing with 452 yards.
And the back is not going to stop him now.
Elliott attributes his success in 2021 to focusing on trying to get better every year and wanting to make up for a disappointing 2020 season in which he had career lows in yards per game (65.3), yards per carry (4.0) and yards for the season (979) while having a career-high six fumbles.
“I just think, every year, you gotta to develop as a player, as a person, as a leader as a teammate, as a boyfriend, brother, everything,” Elliott said. “You got to get better. If I’m just staying the same from last year, I’m not doing my job.”
Elliott is averaging a career-high 5.3 yards per carry through the first five games of 2021, and he’s on pace for 1,536 yards for the season.
He got a new trainer, changed his diet and worked on his body in the offseason.
Elliott dropped his weight from 228 pounds down to 218. He is lighter, faster and sleeker. And it shows.
He has 14 runs of 10 yards or more in 2021 after just 22 runs of 10 yards or more in 16 games in 2021.
“I’d say this year a lot of it was about my body,” Elliott said. “A lot of it was just making sure I was ready to come in and make up for my [expletive] show last year.”