Jerry Jones, left, thinks Ezekiel Elliott has learned from his experience. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made it clear that he viewed Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension, levied last year after the NFL investigated allegations of domestic abuse, as grossly unfair by challenging it in federal court. Shortly before a hearing Monday with Commissioner Roger Goodell to challenge his own hefty penalty imposed by the league, Jones reiterated his support for Elliott, saying that the running back had “paid the most level of punishment that I’ve seen for what he did.”

What Elliott did has been subject to dispute, as he said in an August statement that while he apologized for the “distraction and disruption” he caused his family and team, he “strongly” disagreed with the NFL’s “findings.” In a letter explaining the reasoning behind the suspension, the league had stated that it found “credible evidence” that Elliott used “physical force” on “multiple occasions” against his then-girlfriend during the week of July 16, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.

The NFL also pointed to an incident at a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dallas during March 2017, when Elliott was caught on video lifting a woman’s shirt and exposing her breast in public. In both that case and the episode of alleged domestic violence, no criminal charges were filed against Elliott, but the league noted that those are not required for it to determine players’ actions are worthy of punishment, and it cited a policy that calls for six-game suspensions for incidents of domestic violence.

Jones’s comments, made Saturday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, came in the context of a discussion about how the Cowboys were not making any extra effort to monitor Elliott’s behavior this offseason. Jones posited that the 22-year-old back, who was forced to sit out Weeks 10 through 15 last season after exhausting his legal options to forestall the ban, was chastened by his experience.

“He’s paid as high a price from the level of — he’s paid the most level of punishment that I’ve seen for what he did,” Jones said (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). “So he’s done that. That would make any of us cognizant of the fact that you have serious accountability for any situation that you get into. The more meaningful, and it’s costly, and it’s certainly cost him. It’s cost him. So he’s smart, he is smart.

“And so we should have every reason to believe that that will be a constant reminder when you’re making decisions. I think that’s the case.”

“I wouldn’t say we monitor him any closer,” Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, a son of the owner, said of Elliott. “You can only do so much. These are grown men. I have a lot of confidence that Zeke has learned a lot. Hopefully, he has.”

Jones has a point about the severity of Elliott’s “level of punishment,” in that since the NFL changed its domestic violence policy in December 2014 to include a six-game suspension, it has appeared to apply that in a somewhat haphazard fashion. As Pro Football Talk pointed out last year, some players investigated for domestic abuse or violence against women have gotten the full ban, while others have received shorter suspensions.

On the other hand, Jones may have opened himself up to accusations of being tone-deaf, at the very least, and not for the first time. In November, Jones apologized for making an “inappropriate” racial joke, after a four-year-old video surfaced, and he made headlines before that by asserting that he would bench any player of his who engaged in a protest during the national anthem.

Jones’s hearing Monday with Goodell is related, in part, to his efforts on behalf of Elliott, but mostly to his campaign against a new contract extension for the commissioner negotiated by other owners. The NFL is demanding repayment from Jones of $2 million in legal fees, a decision he is eager to contest.

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