Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott has finally been handed a punishment by the NFL after months of speculation and waiting. Now, the NFL has finally announced that he will be suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

NFL's statement on Elliott's suspension

The league's suspension of Ezekiel Elliott comes as the end result of their investigation that began over a year ago, when Elliott's ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence in Columbus, Ohio. Last September, it was announced that charges against Elliott would not be pursued due to “conflicting and inconsistent information.” However, the NFL is allowed to punish a player even if there were no legal charges.

In its statement, the league said their personal conduct advisors “were of the view that there is substantial and persuasive evidence finding supporting a finding that [Elliott] engaged in physical violence.” These advisors also found that he did so against his accuser on “multiple occasions.” The Dallas bar incident from last month that Elliott was accused of being involved in was not a factor in the decision.

What can Elliott do next?

Ezekiel Elliott now has three days to file an appeal on the ruling with the NFL, which he is expected to do. If he does file, Elliott would then to schedule a hearing with the league within ten days of receipt of the notice. Commissioner Roger Goodell or a selected designee, usually former league executive Harold Henderson, would listen to the appeal.

Without an appeal, Elliott's suspension would start September 2nd and he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys' active roster on October 23. In a statement, the NFL Players Association announced that they are reviewing the NFL's decision and are in contact with the running back and his representatives.

Where do the Cowboys go from here?

Last season, Ezekiel Elliott led the league in carries (322) and rushing yards (1,631). He also had the third most touchdowns (15) and the fifth most yards per attempt (5.1). He hauled in 32 receptions for 363 yards and a touchdown. The rookie sensation was selected to the Pro Bowl and was a part of the AP's All-Pro First-Team.

Luckily, the Cowboys have two experienced rushers in Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden to replace him. In 2015, McFadden finished fourth in the NFL with 1,089 rushing yards. Last season he only played in three games last season, getting 24 carries, due to an elbow injury. Morris started his career with three straight 1,000 yard seasons, but last year played a limited role as Elliott got all the action. He had 69 carries for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns.

It is likely that these two would share the load, with Morris getting early down and short yardage situation and McFadden coming in on third down and passing plays due to his catching ability. Behind them are journeyman Ronnie Hillman and fullback Rod Smith, who has been getting some carries as a running back in camp.