Chargers’ Austin Ekeler feels emotional rollercoaster of being a fan – Press Enterprise
COSTA MESA — Austin Ekeler was at his home Sunday morning, the last place he wanted to be. He was helpless to aid his Chargers teammates as they battled the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, desperately trying to earn their first victory of the season after two narrow defeats to start the season.
“I felt the emotions of being a fan because I wasn’t at the game,” Ekeler said of being sidelined by an ankle injury for the second consecutive game. “I was watching from home. When you’re at the game, when you’re in the game, you’re locked in. You’re in the zone, so you don’t really have those swings.
“You have a job, you have a mission, you’re laser-focused.”
At home, Ekeler felt all the ups and downs and twists and turns of the Chargers’ see-saw victory over the Vikings. The Chargers led 21-10, then trailed 24-21, then led again 28-24, before needing linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr.’s end-zone interception to preserve their nerve-jangling victory.
It wasn’t comfortable for Ekeler, a veteran running back who has grown accustomed to having a steady, confident hand in whatever results the Chargers manage to gain from week to week. After all, he was the NFL’s leader in touchdowns with 38 over the past two seasons.
“My mom always tells me, ‘I feel like I played the game after I watch it,’” Ekeler said. “I got a sense of that. I’m doing push-ups. I’m blowing off steam. I’m this close to the TV. I’m screaming. I’m yelling. I’m supporting the boys as much as I can from home. I definitely felt the emotional rollercoaster that the NFL is.
“I see why people love the sport so much.”
Ekeler returned to the practice field Wednesday, but his participation was said to be limited to individual drills because of a high ankle sprain he suffered in the Chargers’ season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10 at SoFi Stadium. Mostly, he said he ran in straight lines.
Turning, cutting and running laterally have caused him pain.
So, on Wednesday, he stuck to running straight ahead.
It’s possible he could play Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
It’s also likely he could sit out for a third consecutive game, gain an extra week of rest, recovery and rehabilitation during the Chargers’ bye week that follows their Week 4 game against the Raiders and be sound enough to play in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, a Monday night game at SoFi Stadium.
“It’s, like, OK, when this ankle is ready, it’s ready,” he said. “If it’s (Thursday), if it’s next week, then so be it. It’s not necessarily, ‘Oh, there’s a bye.’ If I can play this game (Sunday against the Raiders), I’m going to help the team. There’s been progress. (But) I’m not at a point where I’ve tried to push it 100 percent.”
JOHNSTON STEPS UP
Wide receiver Quentin Johnston’s role could get a good deal larger now that the Chargers will be without Mike Williams for the rest of the season after he tore the ACL in his left knee during the third quarter of Sunday’s game. Johnston, a rookie from TCU, has played only a handful of downs so far.
It’s hardly a fair trade.
Johnston has caught five passes from Justin Herbert for 26 yards, an average of 5.2 yards per reception, in his first three NFL games. Williams has caught 309 passes for 4,806 yards, an average of 15.6 yards per reception, and 31 touchdowns in 88 games in his stellar seven-year career.
“Honestly, I’m ready for it,” Johnston said.
Johnston said the transition from collegiate stardom to NFL backup has “been different.” It’s taught him patience and to be a team player because “it’ll really tell you the type of person you are” to go from being on the field for every snap in college to playing less than 25% of the downs in the NFL.
“At first it was a little frustrating, but then I realized I’m still here and there are still opportunities for me,” Johnston said.
Murray (groin), edge rushers Joey Bosa (hamstring/toe) and Khalil Mack (rest), tight end Gerald Everett (illness), safeties Alohi Gilman (heel) and Derwin James Jr. (hamstring) and center Corey Linsley (illness) didn’t practice.
Ekeler, linebacker Eric Kendricks (hamstring) and offensive lineman Rashawn Slater (ankle) were listed as limited on the Chargers’ official injury report.
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