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What's Ezekiel Elliott doing in Cabo San Lucas? Marshall Faulk dishes on Cowboys RB's plan

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Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout game has gone to another level.

Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk arrived in Cabo San Lucas on Friday for the primary purpose of ensuring that the Dallas Cowboys’ star running back is ready for the grind of the NFL whenever he resolves his contract dispute with the team.

“I’m going to push him,” Faulk told USA TODAY Sports shortly after arriving at the Mexican resort where Elliott has trained during his standoff with the Cowboys. “I’ve got some football stuff to put him through. Some two-minute stuff, some four-minute stuff, to see if he’s ready for football.”

Clearly, in enlisting the support of one of the greatest players ever – Faulk has long been a mentor to the Cowboys’ best player – the NFL’s reigning rushing champ is sending signals that he is properly preparing to immediately return as the dominant impact player he has been throughout his career.

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Faulk, whose 19,154 career yards from scrimmage rank fourth in NFL history, talked to USA TODAY Sports before his first training session with Elliott on Friday. Although the exotic, private location spanning 1,500 acres within the Pacific Dunes is best known for a less-physical sport – one of the three golf courses at the Diamante Resort was recently named as one of the top 50 in the world by Golf Magazine – Faulk swears by a boot-camp mentality. He said that Elliott would wear a helmet, shoulder pads and a heart monitor during the workouts.

“I’m not a conditioning coach,” Faulk said. “I’m not a strength coach. But I know what it takes to play a whole game at running back. I understand the stamina it takes in order to do the stuff to win.”

There’s no knocking Faulk’s credibility on this issue. The former NFL MVP was extremely durable throughout his 12-year career, when he was undeniably the league’s best multi-purpose back – just as lethal as a receiver out of the St. Louis Rams’ backfield as he was as a runner.

Yet Faulk also knows a lot about how to return to top form after a holdout. In 1999, after being traded to St. Louis from the Indianapolis Colts, Faulk missed the first 12 days of training camp due to a contract dispute. After securing the desired new deal, he went on to put up a career-high 2,429 yards from scrimmage, averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry and helping fuel the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV crown.

“I don’t know if it worked out, but we won the Super Bowl,” Faulk said.

What does he need to share with Elliott about that particular holdout experience?

“Nothing,” Faulk said.

Still, he understands the bigger picture as it relates to Elliott – which is why he’s in Cabo.

“It’s basically a matter of, ‘Can you come back and not injure yourself?’ “ Faulk said. “Most running backs that hold out, at some point in the season, there’s an injury. They get pushed to do more than they are ready to handle.”

The way Faulk sees it, Elliott’s training will make up for what he’s missed out by skipping training camp – while also fortifying the running back for the prospects that the holdout extends into the season.

“He gets to see if he’s ready,” Faulk said. “Going through training camp and OTAs, you really don’t know if you’re ready until you hit the field for the first time. In a lot of cases now, the first two or three games, you’ll build up your stamina. He’s going to have to play 40-50 plays after he gets back. The worst thing that can happen is to return and not be in football shape. If this (holdout with Elliott) goes two, three, four games or whatever, whenever he comes back, he has to be ready.”

Of course, the ETA for Elliott’s return is a mystery dependent on contract talks. While Faulk expects to be in Cabo at least through the middle of next week to complement Elliott’s training, agent Rocky Arceneaux is in tow while continuing to negotiate with Cowboys management.

Although Elliott – who won the NFL rushing title in two of his first three seasons and also led the league in rushing yards per game in 2017, when he was limited to 10 games due to a suspension – has two years remaining on his rookie contract, he is undoubtedly due for a raise. With an average salary of $6.239 million, Elliott ranks 10th among NFL running backs. The top three running backs for average salary – Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson – all collect at least $13 million per year.

“This is a special young man,” Faulk said. “The Cowboys know it. They’re taking the liberty of setting the market.”

Faulk maintained that Elliott is proceeding with a determined mindset during his holdout. Yet it’s also clear that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ recent remarks – walked back as a joke as he complimented rookie fill-in back Tony Pollard – went over like a wet sand bag in Elliott’s camp.

“Zeke understands where we’re at and what we’re doing,” Faulk said. “This is his decision. But Jerry and his comment, ‘Zeke who?’ … Jerry’s a sensitive guy. If someone asked Zeke, ‘Who’s the best owner in the NFL?’ and he said Steve Bisciotti or Robert Kraft or Arthur Blank, he’d take it personally. Jerry wouldn’t find that so funny.”

Yes, the line is drawn in the sand in Cabo San Lucas … which is not the best place for your best player if you’re hoping for a championship run. 

Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

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