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FRISCO, Texas — The symptoms, Ezekiel Elliott says, were mild. 

He had a cough, shortness of breath and heavy breathing during two days in June. 

But the Cowboys running back was nearly asymptomatic for the duration of his bout with COVID-19.

Even so, he approached recovery with substantial caution. 

“I’d probably say I didn’t work out for a month,” Elliott said Monday after the Cowboys’ first padded practice. “Because there’s some complications COVID can cause to your organs. So you’ve got to make sure your heart and lungs are working all together before you get back out there.

“It was frustrating for sure.” 

Even more frustrating, Elliott says, was quarantining in his house for the month. Elliott was isolated from teammates and friends as he rested and tried to avoid transmitting the virus to others. He passed the time by gaming online via streaming service Twitch. He was more vocal on social media, too, an offseason trend he showed in May, when Elliott joined NFL stars in a Black Lives Matter video to Roger Goodell. 

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott says joining NFL players’ Black Lives Matter video was a “no-brainer” after @Cantguardmike gave him the opportunity.

Zeke: “It’s very important for us to use our platforms to help bring change.”pic.twitter.com/dOsw69tqqc— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) August 17, 2020

“It definitely was good to get back out and moving once I got out of quarantine,” Elliott said. 

After he recovered and was cleared to exercise again, Elliott joined offensive teammates working out at quarterback Dak Prescott’s newly commissioned backyard football field. Elliott ran routes with teammates including receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb. Tight end Blake Jarwin joined. All realized the depth of the weapons their unit brings. Prescott praised his teammates for showing no ego about ball distribution. 

Elliott said Monday he expects his load to be similar to that of previous years. In 2019, his 355 combined touches (301 rushes, 54 receptions) accounted for 42.4% of the Cowboys’ total. During Elliott’s other two full seasons with Dallas (he was suspended six games in 2017), Elliott accounted for 47.9% (381 touches) and 42.9 (354) percent of Cowboys touches. 

“Obviously, Zeke has been such a weapon and a force as far as his opportunities here in the past,” head coach Mike McCarthy, who’s tinkered the offense with coordinator Kellen Moore, said Monday. “That will continue.” 

Ezekiel Elliott doesn’t expect his load will change much in Mike McCarthy‘s offense. Feeling good after first day in pads.

“Guys are juiced,” Zeke tells us. “I think we all love Coach McCarthy.”

(📸: Dallas Cowboys) pic.twitter.com/WTOJ2HOv5y— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) August 17, 2020

McCarthy said he’s not worried that just four of Elliott’s 301 carries last season netted 20 yards. McCarthy looks instead to the 4.5 yards per carry Elliott averaged in 2019. McCarthy says Elliott’s film underlines his competency as a threat on outside-, inside- and tight-zone runs. 

“No flaws there, as far as him as a runner,” McCarthy said. “You can see on the screens and some of the big plays he did have: He finishes runs. He finishes plays. 

“His ability to be a multiple-run force runner is something I think we’ll will definitely utilize.”