(CBS Dallas)- The Ezekiel Elliott contract negotiation saga found new life over the weekend, as reports began to indicate that a deal might be coming prior to the first game of the season.

Earlier today, the intrigue built further, when reports stated that Elliott was returning to North Texas to be ready to join the team if a contract gets done. While these developments are exciting for the team and Cowboys fans, it’s fair to ask what can reasonably be expected of the 24-year-old running back when he does rejoin the team. Elliott missed all of preseason and training camp while undergoing his campaign to receive a new contract.

Former NFL player and Inside The NFL analyst Ray Lewis isn’t concerned, saying that he believes Elliott will be able to immediately assume his normal role within the team’s offense.

“I think he’ll be ready to contribute the day he walks in,” said Lewis. “I don’t think he’s off somewhere having a great time. I think he’s off somewhere training and getting ready for this opportunity, whenever it happens… possibly get a contract finished.”

That is music to fans’ ears, as Elliott has been the driving force for the Cowboys offense since he was drafted by the team back in 2016. In his three seasons, Elliott has accounted for over 5,200 yards of offense, if you combine his rushing and receiving stats. That is a fact that isn’t lost on Lewis.

“The Cowboys, they don’t move without Ezekiel. If he’s missing, they struggle. And they will have to find an identity very quickly,” said Lewis. “With him there, they’re a totally different ball club. I think they’ll hit their stride very early. I think Amari Cooper last year was a great pickup for them, and now he’ll get better and better for them.”

The Cowboys open their 2019 season against the New York Giants on Sunday, September 8th.

You can catch Ray Lewis along with Phil Simms, Brandon Marshall and host James Brown on Inside The NFL every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CT on Showtime.