FRISCO, Texas (TNS) — Running back Ezekiel Elliott became more vocal on the practice field during organized team activities (OTAs) on Wednesday than in his previous seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
It's not by accident.
For a team that has seen Jason Witten retire and Dez Bryant get released this offseason, Elliott feels it's time he stepped up into a leadership role. He's discussed this with running backs coach Gary Brown.
"I have been a little more vocal," Elliott said. "That's definitely something I'm focusing in on this offseason. Not only leading by example, but coming out and encouraging guys.
"I feel like we all need to do that. I think going into my third year, it's about time. Me and coach Brown, we talked about that this offseason. We both thought that was something I should focus on."
As far as if he's more of a leader by example such as Witten, or a more intense practice player such as Bryant, Elliott said: "It's a little mixture of both. I like to lead by example, but I'm working on being more vocal."
Elliott, 22, is coming off a frustrating and stressful season. He dealt with a lengthy legal battle with the NFL over a six-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, a suspension he eventually accepted.
That forced Elliott to miss six games in the middle of the season and the Cowboys' offense struggled without him. He finished the year with 983 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 242 carries.
As a rookie, Elliott led the league in rushing with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Elliott acknowledged that it's nice to just focus on football going into next season, rather than a looming suspension.
"I definitely do. I'm excited for this year," Elliott said. "I have high expectations for myself."
Elliott brushed off being ranked No. 54 in the league on the NFL Network's list of the top-100 players. He came in at No. 7 a year ago.
"I know the player I am," Elliott said. "You guys know the player I am. Everyone in the league knows the player I am. So I don't really need verification from a top-100 list."
Sounds like a leader who already knows how to block out outside noise.