Why Jerry Jones described Cowboys sitting Ezekiel Elliott Sunday as 'too good an opportunity’ to pass up

FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys won’t say these words in this order.

But barring a miraculous recovery, don’t expect running back Ezekiel Elliott to play Sunday vs. the Chicago Bears.

After Elliott sprained his right knee last week in a 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions, the seventh-year pro has not practiced this week.

Unless he practices Saturday, he will not play Sunday, head coach Mike McCarthy said.

It’s unlikely he practices Saturday.

“It had everything to do with how we’re doing this weekend with this bye coming up,” Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones said Friday morning on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I’m not so sure we’d have done it this way had we not had the bye. This just gives too good an opportunity if we don’t use him.

“We’ll see how he’s responding as the week goes on but if we don’t use him, it’s just too great a time to get him in top shape.”

Perhaps that logic — three weeks’ time between competition for just one game missed — will assuage Elliott, who fought through the injury in the second half against Detroit to score two touchdowns and gain 29 of his 52 total yards on the day. Elliott even hurdled a player for the first time in years during his post-sprain play.

“I think it’s my job to be out there, to be available,” he said Wednesday. “If I can be out there, why not? I’m not going to take a game off because I don’t feel 100 percent. I think that’s soft.”

Don't expect Ezekiel Elliott to play Sunday vs. the Bears, even if the Cowboys won't say it yet. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Don't expect Ezekiel Elliott to play Sunday vs. the Bears, even if the Cowboys won't say it yet. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports) (USA TODAY USPW / reuters)

Dallas and its medical staff will likely take that decision from Elliott this week, reminding him of the consequences he bore playing through a PCL tear for four months last season. Elliott never rested after the injury. And though he continued to contribute in the Cowboys' rushing and pass protection games — the latter is an integral, underrated part of his contribution to offensive efficiency — he lost the burst his earlier career had featured.

The Cowboys’ two-headed rushing attack has carried their 5-2 season start, four of those wins coming without starting quarterback Dak Prescott (now back from a thumb fracture). Elliott has rushed 109 times for 443 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 4.1 yards a carry. His counterpart Tony Pollard has rushed 375 times, scoring twice while averaging 5.6 yards a pop.

Pollard has never attempted more than 14 carries in a game during his four seasons. He’s topped out at 12 this year. He nonetheless believes he’s ready for the opportunity.

“Whatever they ask of me to carry, I got it,” Pollard said this week. “They call it, I’m gonna haul it.”

The Bears defense could help, as Chicago arrives with the third-best pass defense (180.3 yards per game) and the third-worst run defense (149.7 yards per game). But the Cowboys also believe Pollard’s success through seven games this season is strongly connected to Elliott’s impact on defenses. His physicality wore them down. Elliott’s bruising style also goaded defenders into taking certain pursuit angles that fit Pollard’s lanes less precisely.

Cowboys fans who have clamored for the explosive Pollard to attempt a full load will likely see what he can bring this weekend. The Cowboys are also expected to involve rookie Malik Davis, who impressed in the preseason.

But for the most part, all eyes are on Pollard.

“I’m anxious to see,” Jones said. “My vision of Pollard is that he can run all day. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him get tired.

“I think he’ll do outstanding.”

Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein