"The emotional roller-coaster he was going through last year -- 'Was he playing?' 'Was he not playing?' -- and then to have the game taken away from him for the time he did, it takes a toll," Prescott said this week, per ESPN's Todd Archer. "It takes a toll on anybody that cares and loves what they do. And not only that, loves their teammates and the organization they play for. So just having that freedom, coming in this year, being able to work and knowing he's going to have every game ahead of him is going to do wonders for him. He's been great out here at OTAs, being a great leader, showing guys the way to practice and the way to run."
Elliott didn't really suffer the much-feared second-year slump, but his second year in the NFL was unique. After finding out in training camp the NFL was suspending him six games for violating the league's personal conduct policy, Elliott and the NFL Players Association engaged in a months-long legal battle with the NFL to block the ban. It wasn't until November that the legal sparring ended and Elliott accepted the suspension. By then, it was clear the Cowboys -- and Elliott -- wouldn't pull off an encore of their memorable 2016 campaign that introduced the NFL to a pair of dynamic, playmaking rookies.
"Obviously, what went on last year is distracting to anybody," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I thought [Elliott] handled it really well, fought through it, came back and did a good job for us at the end of the year."
Although Elliott's six-game absence is often used as Exhibit A for why the Cowboys missed the playoffs last season, the running back had a strong season, coming up just short of a 1,000-yard season. He was on pace to rush for more than 1,600 yards, which would have made him the 2017 rushing champ.
With both Prescott and Elliott eyeing bigger things in 2018, it'll be interesting to see if Dallas can rediscover the form that propelled it to a 13-3 season in 2016.