On Thursday, it seemed as though the realization of Elliott missing the start of the regular season could be creeping in.
"I'm operating as though right now he's going to miss regular season games," Jones said via The Athletic's Jon Machota. "My entire expectation for what we're putting together as a team right now would anticipate with him holding out ... that he's going to miss games. I just accept that."
Less than 24 hours later on Friday morning, Jones buzzed in again during an interview on 105.3 The Fan, stressing how talented Elliott is, but emphatically pointing out that he's still just one player on a talented team.
"Zeke is an outstanding player, and arguably right there with our best players. But no one gives up in any way, especially with the talented group that we have," Jones said via Machota. "Most of these teams win Super Bowls without rushing champions. Secondly, we've had [Elliott] going on three or four years and we haven't won it yet. So we got to figure out that obviously he's not the ingredient that will win it. You've got to think like that. ... It's availability."
As the holdouts of Elliott and Chargers back Melvin Gordon carry on right along with discussions on the going rate for elite-level rushers, it's been a common narrative that Zeke's importance to the Cowboys is likely greater than any back to any other team. Jones made sure to dispel those notions on Friday.
"One player can make a difference, but not the difference," Jones said.
Elliott has been missing in action for the duration of Cowboys training camp and their preseason games as the reigning NFL rushing titlist is looking for a contract extension with two years remaining upon his rookie deal.
Meanwhile, Jones and the Cowboys brass, having already inked extensions with defensive stalwarts Demarcus Lawrence and Jaylon Smith, still must deal with impending extensions for quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver Amari Cooper (who Jones added he expects to return to practice next week as the WR has been dealing with a heel injury).
Jones' realization that the Cowboys are planning to begin a defense of their NFC East title sans Elliott -- and therefore likely starting rookie Tony Pollard at running back -- could offer credence that the two parties are still far apart. It could also be posturing at the hopes of "come back, Zeke" sentiments buoying the running back's return.
Nonetheless, Jones told no tall tales of the Cowboys not needing Elliott or being fine and dandy without him returning (eventually).
"He can't, and won't miss them all," Jones said on Thursday. "We need Zeke. We're a better team with Zeke."
Jones moseyed a step further beyond needing Elliott, as he offered that the absent running back was very much emblematic of who the Cowboys are and how much he admires him.
"He's a lot of what I'd like to be part of our identity," Jones said on Thursday. "And has been. I'll always remember him jumping in that red kettle. That's him in that locker room. And of course the player that he is."
And therein, Jones looked back upon pleasant memories of Elliott after he admitted to looking forward to a future without Elliott -- at least temporarily.