Cowboys leaning toward playing Ezekiel Elliott in third preseason game

— -- FRISCO, Texas --? Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is expected to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

Coach Jason Garrett said he is leaning toward Elliott seeing action in the game, and in Wednesday's practice, Elliott took turns with the first-team offense going against the scout team. In the lead-up to last week's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, Elliott did not take those snaps and did not play.

Elliott has been suspended six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He has appealed the decision, and the hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Even with the possibility of not having him until October, Garrett wants to make sure Elliott would be ready for the Sept. 10 season opener against the New York Giants.

"I think the biggest thing is just having the mindset of preparing him for Week 1 of the season, and that's the approach that we've taken," Garrett said. "He's got a number of more reps in training camp than he did last year. If you remember, he had the hamstring injury last year and ended up playing in the second-to-last preseason game and got eight, 10, 12 snaps in that ballgame, so that's the approach that we've taken with him, and anything beyond that we'll take as it comes."

Elliott played 14 snaps and had seven carries for 48 yards in the third preseason game last year against the Seattle Seahawks.

Without the looming suspension, Garrett said Elliott's preseason workload would not have changed.

"I think it's the position that takes more pounding maybe than any other if you think about what their job is, handling the ball, running 25 times in a game and getting tackled 20-25 times in a game," Garrett said. "They get hit probably twice as many more times, and so those guys probably take the most physical beating among any players on the field, so you balance that -- putting them at risk in that regard and getting them ready to play."

If Elliott's suspension is upheld, the Cowboys plan to go with Darren McFadden, Rod Smith and Alfred Morris as their lead backs in his absence. Elliott is not allowed to have contact with the team during his suspension.