Lawyers representing the NFL Players Association and Ezekiel Elliott asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday for an immediate recall of its mandate in the suspension case so they can pursue a full-panel rehearing with the court and get the Dallas Cowboys standout back on the field.
If the petition is granted and a rehearing request is filed, a stay on the appeals ruling that bars Elliott from playing would go into effect, allowing him to return to the playing field, according to Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program. The NFLPA can ask for a rehearing en banc -- a rehearing of the case among all active judges on the 5th Circuit -- once the mandate that vacated the preliminary injunction and ordered a lower court to dismiss the case is recalled.
The union informed the court of its intention to seek a full-panel rehearing Thursday. However, there is no firm timeline for the 5th Circuit to lift the mandate -- until it does, Elliott remains suspended. Still, there's a chance Elliott could play in the Cowboys' next game against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 22.
Elliott's six-game suspension was reinstated Thursday's following the court's 2-1 ruling in favor of the NFL in its appeal of an NFLPA lawsuit seeking to block the ban.
As for the full-panel rehearing, a majority of the 5th Circuit's active judges would have to agree to rehear the case for it to move forward.
Full-court rehearings are rare. The 5th Circuit granted six en banc rehearings out of 200 petitions last year, Feldman said. A federal appeals court rejected Tom Brady's en banc request during Deflategate.
Elliott's suspension formally restarted Thursday and is currently set to end Friday, Nov. 24.
Unless lawyers for Elliott and NFLPA can get the suspension put on hold again, Elliott will miss games against the 49ers, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers. The next game he'd be eligible to play would be against the Redskins at home on Nov. 30.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Elliott after a year-long investigation into domestic violence accusations made by his former girlfriend, Tiffany Thompson. The league found he violated the NFL's personal conduct policy, which mandates a six-game suspension for first-time domestic violence violations. In a letter sent to Elliott informing him of suspension in August, the NFL stated it believed he used physical force against Thompson three times over a span of five days in July 2016.
The NFL's appeal is part of an attempt to enforce Elliott's suspension this season and confirm Goodell's authority to issue punishment based on "conduct detrimental" to the league as mandated in Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement.
"This is part of the ongoing fight between the players association and the league over the power of the commissioner," Feldman said. "We have seen the NFL go to great lengths in court to affirm and strengthen and maintain they believe in what they collectively bargained for. And we've seen the players association fight and say that the commissioner has overreached and they want to protect the rights of the players ... [The NFL] doesn't want precedent out there that says a court can interfere with the commissioner's decision or with an arbitrator's decision."