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Three Takeaways: Austin Ekeler Bringing 'Good Energy' in Return to Bolts

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Below are three takeaways from Wednesday's press conferences with Brandon Staley, Austin Ekeler and Linval Joseph.

Ekeler returns

After missing last week's game in Houston due to being on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, the Chargers lead running back, Austin Ekeler, spoke to the media today about his return to the team. Ekeler, who has 17 touchdowns on the season, talked about how he is feeling with a chance for the Bolts to respond with a win this week at home.

"It feels good to be around this energy again," Ekeler said. "…Just being around the guys, after being out for a week-and-a-half at home, not really seeing anyone, I'm coming home to my family. This is my family away from my family. You can definitely tell. I have good energy and I'm excited to be back."

Ekeler also talked about how the Bolts' run game is looking with the recent emergence of fellow running back Justin Jackson. Ekeler talked about how the Bolts run game can now feature the duo of both Jackson and Ekeler who are both effectively moving the ball on gamedays.

"It's great to have that duo in there where we feel like, 'Hey, no matter who the back is in the game they are going to be efficient,'" Ekeler said. "I think it's really helped our run game as well because J.J. is a really efficient runner. Glad to have him because that is definitely going to be a part of the game plan moving forward."

Preparing for Drew Lock under center

While the Bolts have already faced the Broncos this season, this weekend's matchup could feature a new starting quarterback under center in Drew Lock. Lock got the start last week with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out due to a concussion which could force him to miss the game against the Chargers as well.

While they saw a bit of Lock in the Week 12 game, Head coach Brandon Staley talked about preparing for a Broncos offense led by Lock this time around.

"There are mostly similarities in terms of how they run their offense, but there are some things that Drew brings to the table that Teddy doesn't, and vice-versa," Staley said. "I think that you just study the player and what type of style he has; the differences, the subtle things at the line of scrimmage, and in the huddle. Then, you go full speed ahead with him."

Veteran defensive lineman Linval Joseph looks at this week's matchup against the Broncos as a 'good opportunity' to see what the Bolts are made of as they fight for a spot in the playoffs. Joseph, who won a Super Bowl in his second year with the New York Giants, explained why he feels this Chargers team is very similar to that team in New York just before they made their Super Bowl run.

"I can't wait to pick up everybody's energy because this is big," Joseph. "This reminds me of when we went 9-7 my second year and won the Super Bowl. We started off hot. We had a lot of guys hurt. Then, boom, we came together at the right time. Then, we didn't lose any more games and we won the Super Bowl. That's exactly how I feel right now."

Relying on relationships and routine to find success

On Wednesday, Ekeler also spoke about his role as a leader on the Bolts and how important it is to stay calm and collected throughout the challenges of a full NFL season. He explained how relying on a good routine is key to finding success when you need it most both in football and in life.

"If you have a good routine, then you can always fall back to that to look forward for where to go next," Ekeler said. "For me, I know my routine, as far as being a leader on this team, is bringing energy, really just being vocal out there in the field — not necessarily towards people, but just in a general sense, as far as making sure we're all locked in, and also doing my part, as far as doing my job as an individual as a part of this team, as well."

Since the beginning of the season, Staley has talked about the importance of building relationships within a football team. Now in need of two big wins, Staley explained how trusting those relationships is crucial heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

"What you have to do is you have to trust the relationships that you've built over the course of 10, 11 months," Staley said. "You have to trust those relationships. Then, you have to trust your plans and how you prepare. I think that's what our approach is going to be this week, putting the focus on us and giving the Broncos their full respect by preparing each day the best that we know how."

Check out the best photos from the Chargers Wednesday practice at Hoag Performance Center.

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