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    Austin Ekeler’s return from injury could boost Chargers’ ground game
    • October 10, 2023

    COSTA MESA — Running back Austin Ekeler said Tuesday he could have played in the Chargers’ victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 1 if it was the last game of the season and he could push his badly sprained ankle beyond what he considered tolerable pain. But it wasn’t, so he didn’t.

    He also said he could have played if the Chargers had a game this past Sunday. But they didn’t, so he didn’t.

    So, does he expect to play Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys?


    “It’s a prime-time game,” he said. “We’ve got the world watching us.”

    The Chargers went back to work on Bonus Tuesday, after a much-needed bye week. Their break came earlier than usual, but it also came at the right time for Ekeler, who injured his ankle in their season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins and sat out their next three games.

    Now, he’s sound and ready to rejoin a backfield that could use all his many talents when the Chargers take the field to face the Cowboys for Monday Night Football at SoFi Stadium. Ekeler ran for 117 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries as the Chargers rushed for 234 yards as a team against Miami.

    The Chargers’ ground game hasn’t been the same without Ekeler. The Chargers rushed for 61 yards in their loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. They rushed for 30 yards in their victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3. They rushed for 155 yards in their victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 4.

    Joshua Kelley has had games of 39, 12 and 65 yards in Ekeler’s absence after opening the season with 91 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries against a Miami defense that seemed perfectly content to allow the Chargers to run and run and run some more.

    No question, the Chargers need a balanced running and passing game Monday.

    “I feel good, man, feel really good,” Ekeler said after practicing fully with his teammates for the first time since he was injured in the second half of their 36-34 loss to the Dolphins. “The bye week, some people don’t want an early bye week, but for me, it worked out as far as the timing.”

    Ekeler, the NFL’s leader with 18 touchdowns in the 2022 season and 20 during 2021, worked out on his own during the bye week and suffered no setbacks. He said he pushed it and his ankle held up just fine, as it did on Tuesday. After a day off on Wednesday, the Chargers will practice again Thursday.

    “The bye was probably a blessing for me,” he said.

    Ekeler said he felt “disconnected” from his teammates and “something was lost” while he was sidelined, unable to aid them during a loss to the Titans and victories over the Vikings and Raiders. He missed the competition, the battles won and lost during games decided by narrow margins.

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    The Chargers lost to the Titans, 27-24 in overtime, before logging a 28-24 victory over the Vikings and a 24-17 win against the Raiders to even their record at 2-2 going into the bye week.

    “That’s why I was pushing to get back as soon as I could,” Ekeler said. “It’s tough (sitting out with an injury). It’s tough. Yeah, you can see it on the tape, but going out there and physically doing it, it’s such a different skill. To see what you see in the film room and actually go out there and apply it and do it full speed and do it full-time is what separates people, right?

    “We can all look at it and see it on the board and say, ‘OK, this is the read. This is what you need to do.’ But when it’s full speed (on the field), can you make the right adjustments, use the right technique, and what do you have afterwards to continue to, you know, separate yourself?”


    The Chargers signed defensive lineman Christopher Hinton and added center Cameron Tom and defensive back Mark Webb to the practice squad. Hinton was with the Chargers to start the season and he played five games with them last season. Tom was most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad. Webb was a seventh-round pick of the Chargers in 2021.

    ​ Orange County Register