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Appeals court latest stop in running back's suspension case

(AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

By KEVIN McGILL

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) A federal appeals court in New Orleans could rule as early as Tuesday on whether Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott must begin serving a six-game suspension because of domestic violence allegations.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott in August after the league concluded a yearlong investigation that found Elliott had several physical confrontations with his then-girlfriend in Ohio.

Prosecutors didn't pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott has denied the allegations under oath.

Elliott has been allowed to play, however, because a federal district judge blocked the suspension pending appeals.

The league said the lawsuit filed by the players union, representing Elliott, should be thrown out because it was improperly filed before an arbitrator ruled in the case.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Monday and they were to review more documents Tuesday morning. They could rule any time after that but offered no timetable.

The union argues the lawsuit could be pursued because the arbitration proceedings were complete, except for the final ruling, which went against Elliott.

NFL attorney Pratik Shah said the arbitration proceedings, called for in the NFL Players Association collective bargaining agreement with the league, had not been exhausted, so U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant lacked jurisdiction when he blocked the suspension.

Questioned closely by the appeals panel, players association attorney Jeffrey Kessler insisted that the suit was properly before Mazzant, with all but the ruling pending.

"You don't have to wait to be run over," he told the judges.

Also at issue was whether the NFL would be "irreparably harmed" by a court-imposed delay in its disciplinary decision, or whether it would be Elliott who would suffer irreparable harm if forced to immediately serve the suspension.

Elliott led the NFL with 1,631 yards rushing. He has 277 yards through four games this season. He has another 118 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Updated October 2, 2017

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