OXNARD, Calif. - Ezekiel Elliott celebrated his 26th birthday on Thursday with his first practice at Dallas Cowboys training camp - and with a "lighter load,'' in a sense.
“Just having the year I had last year,” Elliott said, “you don’t need more motivation than that. I just know the type of player I am. I don’t think I showed that last year. I got a lot to prove.''
I asked him the question about his weight in part because the change in his body is so apparent. It's not just the gone-viral shirtless photos; the two-time NFL rushing champ, who played at about 227 pounds last year, is noticeably slimmer. His answer was that he's down to 218 - his lightest weight since his freshman year at Ohio State.
Elliott, who earlier in the day was gifted a diamond bracelet by teammate Dak Prescott, was in a jovial mood after fans serenaded him with "Happy Birthday'' during the workout that showcased his quickness. He spoke eloquently about the COVID vaccine issue (“I think that’s kind of a touchy subject,” Elliott said. “You can’t really tell somebody what to do with their body''), told a joke about a drugged-up Prescott in the hospital after last year's Week 5 ankle injury ("Feed Zeke!'' Elliott said, mocking the words Dak managed to say that night from his bed) and took the blame for a 2020 season gone wrong.
READ MORE: Zeke on COVID
“I think the hardest part about last year is you feel like you let your teammates down,” Elliott said, recalling his career-worsts of 979 yards, eight TDs and six fumbles. “That hurts. I want to make sure I put my best step forward and do everything I need to do to help this team win.”
That means consistency, but Dallas could also use more splash plays from Elliott. There was a time when he registered a volume of 20-yard runs and receptions. Last year was not that time.
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“I think I’m quicker,” said Elliott, who mentioned his work with trainer Josh Hicks and also cited his personal chef for improvements in his nutrition.
The Cowboys remain believers in Elliott, especially as he matures, as he noted, "from 20 to 26.''
“He’s a magnet full of energy,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The production on the field is not a concern. The production will be there with the opportunity.''
Zeke believes he's as ready as ever for that opportunity.
“I’ve heard as you get older in this league you want to start losing weight, and nutrition has played a big part of that,” Elliott said. “I feel good where I am.”
READ MORE: Cowboys News as We Report From Oxnard Here