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Austin Ekeler explains frustration with Chargers' 2-4 start: 'It's my job to go play well'

At 2-4, the Chargers are headed toward a dark place.

Their defense hasn't given them a ton of chances to win games. And the Los Angeles offense is sputtering as of late, especially following the loss of receiver Mike Williams.

One of their most important players, running back Austin Ekeler, was asked recently if the team still had faith in coach Brandon Staley. Ekeler responded quickly and succinctly: "We have no choice, right?"

Given time to consider his reaction and the message it might have sent, Ekeler attempted to clarify.

"I think the clip got taken out of context," Ekeler explained Wednesday, per NFL Network's Bridget Condon. "It doesn't matter how I feel, like, what matters is I have to go out and do my job. It's my job to go play well, and then that will [in turn] make Staley look even better.

"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how I feel about it. I don't give a damn about how I feel. I'm not spending one ounce of my energy thinking about how I feel because it doesn't matter. What matters is I have to go execute. And if I don't feel like I did that at a high level, I can't think about anything besides that. And so that's where I'm coming from, where it's like, how do you feel about Staley? I don't have an opinion about that. Because I gotta make sure I do my job first."

Ekeler doesn't exactly have the best relationship with the Chargers. He requested permission to seek a trade during the offseason after contract negotiations failed to produce an offer that would satisfy his desires, and for a period in the spring, it appeared as if their time together would soon be over. Ekeler eventually agreed to a revised contract that added incentives to his deal, but only after realizing the Chargers' compensation expectations made a trade nearly impossible to negotiate.

Since then, Ekeler has appeared in only half of Los Angeles' six games because of an ankle injury. He's broken 100 rushing yards just once, and in the last two weeks, he's posted his lowest scrimmage yards total over a two-game span in the last five seasons. In a contract year, Ekeler isn't being featured nearly as much as most would expect in the Chargers' offense, which means he's watching his earning power dwindle alongside the team's playoff hopes.

It's reasonable to expect most anyone to be upset by these circumstances, but as Ekeler suggested in his initial comments, he's essentially helpless, subjected to the whims of a coaching staff that very well could be gone by the end of 2023, especially if things don't improve in the next month. Ultimately, Ekeler knows how he feels really doesn't matter, there's a job that needs to be done. 

"The emotions don't really matter," he said, per Condon. "Whether I'm feeling happy or sad, it doesn't matter at all. I have a job to do. I have to show up and have to make sure I'm going through my plays. That's really what you look at like OK, what's, what's the day, what are we going over? How do I execute it? What's my energy level and what are my fundamentals? If you just focus on those, which is pretty much all I focus [on] and I'm yelling every day, like, I have a little message with my fiance this morning, like for the last week, she'll be like, 'Hey, go win the day.' I'll be like, yep, no one cares about your feelings. Let's go crush this. It's the same thing, same mindset that I bring into here."

The good news is that Ekeler and the Chargers have another opportunity to get right Sunday against the Chicago Bears. We'll see if this is the start of a great turnaround or just a continuation of the same frustration that led the Chargers to this point after seven weeks.

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