May 22, 2022

Chargers ‘hopeful’ RB Austin Ekeler can play against Patriots

View Original Notice ? Chargers ‘hopeful’ RB Austin Ekeler can play against Patriots

COSTA MESA — Chargers coach Brandon Staley didn’t sound too concerned about Austin Ekeler, despite the running back’s questionable status heading into Sunday’s home game against the New England Patriots.

Staley raved about Ekeler’s performance in Wednesday’s practice and added that he wanted to be cautious with Ekeler’s sore hip by resting him the past two practices.

“Had a really high-level practice and was finishing every run like crazy and just came up a little bit sore after that,” Staley said about Ekeler. “It didn’t happen during the practice, but just felt a little bit of soreness in his hip. But felt much better the last two days and we’re hopeful that he can play.

“Had an awesome practice and stayed after practice with (quarterback) Justin (Herbert). He felt a little sore, so we just wanted to be careful with him the next two days, so hopefully he can play.”

Earlier in the week, Staley and Ekeler challenged the Chargers’ other running backs to improve their play on the field with hopes of one of them stepping up and taking control of the No. 2 role behind Ekeler. If Ekeler isn’t at full strength Sunday, that could provide more snaps for Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III and Joshua Kelley.

Ekeler leads the team with 356 rushing yards and Herbert is second with 72 rushing yards. Jackson, Rountree and Kelley have combined for 106 rushing yards this season.

Linebacker Drue Tranquill was also listed as questionable on the Chargers’ final injury report. He missed the game against the Baltimore Ravens before the bye week because of a chest injury.

Defensive tackle Justin Jones returned to practice this week, but Staley said it’s still to be determined whether he’ll be activated to the 53-man roster before Sunday. Jones has been on injured reserve with a calf injury and hasn’t played since the season-opening win against Washington.

“He’s looked good,” Staley said about Jones. “But we’re just going to make sure (we get) that final yes and we’ll go from there. But hopeful that he can play.”


Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. probably expected to see many mistakes on film from Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, but that wasn’t the case.

Harris joked that he didn’t enjoy watching the film because he saw many strong qualities from Jones, who has found his rhythm after an impressive performance last week in a 54-13 victory against the New York Jets.

“I think for a rookie to come in and to learn this (Patriots) offense is very difficult,” Harris said about Jones. “To be able to make the checks, make the throws, he’s been able to do that. I’m impressed with how he’s playing as a rookie quarterback, and this is definitely going to be a challenge.

“The Jets, it was kind of hard to watch that game. They put up 50 points, but all the other games, he’s very quick. He makes quick decisions. He’s tried to take more shots as the season went on.”

Staley referred to Jones as an “outstanding decision maker” and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill praised the rookie for how he’s operated the Patriots’ offense.

“I think his processor is at a premium for a young quarterback,” Staley said. “You can really see that he can see the game. I know the way they play on offense, they ask a lot of that position. You can tell that he can process at a high level because of the type of plays they’re running. They’re running a lot of premium-type offensive plays that you would think a more experienced quarterback would have.”

Jones was the 15th overall pick in this year’s draft, but he was selected after quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (first), Zach Wilson (second), Trey Lance (third) and Justin Fields (11th).

Jones has been the most productive rookie quarterback this season with a completion percentage of 70.4, 1,779 passing yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions.


Harris was named the Week 8 NFLPA Community MVP after he distributed 500 bags of clothing and hygiene essentials to those experiencing homelessness in Southern California.

Harris and his wife, Leah, started the Chris Cares Winter Handout event in Denver, where Harris played nine seasons with the Broncos.

Harris, who joined the Chargers last year, partnered with the Salvation Army this year to fill the 500 bags with blankets, beanies, socks, mittens and hygiene items.

“It’s a hard time and just to provide them food, provide them hygiene kits and shelter stuff,” Harris said. “So just being able to make an impact. Usually me and my wife are actually in the streets. In Denver, we were able to actually be out there involved in the streets being able to impact those people and get to know those people.

“But you know, coming here during this pandemic has made it hard for us, so we’ve just tried to do it in different ways in which we can be able to help these people.”

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