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Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has appealed his six-game suspension for violating the N.F.L.’s personal-conduct policy, making him the latest star to push back against the league for the way it has penalized players.

If the N.F.L. does not reduce the suspension, Elliott could sue the league in federal court, setting the stage for a potentially protracted showdown like the one between the N.F.L. and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which lasted more than a year.

Last week, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott, who led the N.F.L. in rushing yards last season, his rookie year. The decision came after a yearlong investigation by the league into Elliott’s behavior during a six-day stretch in July 2016 in which his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson accused him of assaulting her five times in Columbus, Ohio, where he played at Ohio State.

Elliott was not arrested or charged because a prosecutor concluded that Thompson’s statements conflicted with those made by Elliott and witnesses.
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The N.F.L. now has 10 business days to schedule a hearing. In the past, Goodell has reduced suspensions when players have admitted fault. If the suspension is not changed, Elliott and the National Football League Players Association could file a claim in court that accuses the league of overstepping its authority.

“We will represent Ezekiel, as we do all players, to ensure that the N.F.L. is held to its obligation of adhering to principles of industrial due process under the collective bargaining agreement,” the union said in a statement.

Winning in court might be difficult. Two years ago, a federal judge blocked the four-game suspension that Brady received for his alleged role in a scheme to deflate footballs used in games. But that decision was overturned on appeal, and Brady was forced to sit out the first four games last season. Other players, including New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson, had results similar to Brady’s.

All eyes will be on Jaylon Smith as he makes his long-awaited debut when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Indianapolis Colts Saturday.

Owner Jerry Jones told reporters that the linebacker will play in the upcoming preseason game.

It will be Smith’s first game since suffering a torn ACL and nerve damage before being drafted in the second-round last season.

Smith’s knee and the question of whether or not his nerve is regenerating have accounted for endless headlines since he was drafted by the Cowboys. Some, including Jones himself, wondered if the knee would ever get healthy enough to where Smith could be an effective NFL player.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The team eased Smith into camp workouts and now he is ready to go. How many snaps he plays remains unknown.

A Cowboys defense that lost several pieces this offseason, and had several more suspended to start the season, desperately needs Smith to be 100 percent when Dallas opens the regular season versus the New York Giants.

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