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Austin Ekeler Expects to Return in Week 6 Against Cowboys


The Chargers are back in the building.

After an early Week 5 bye week, the team regrouped Tuesday at the Hoag Performance Center for their first practice back in Costa Mesa. The players are off Wednesday before coming back to practice on Thursday to ramp up the preparation for the Monday night primetime game against the Cowboys.

And the Bolts did see some familiar faces back on the field coming off of their week off.

Safety Derwin James, Jr., running back Austin Ekeler, safety Alohi Gilman and cornerback Deane Leonard — all whom did not play in Week 4 — took part in practice during Tuesday's portion open to the media.

Although there's no injury report for Tuesday's practice, it was a welcome sight to see a number of players who missed the last game back, as they had the chance to rest up for this next stretch of the season.

Ekeler, who last played during the season opener, said the bye week came at a good time as he continued his recovery from an ankle injury and it gave him some extra time off.

"I'm feeling good. Really good," Ekeler said in the locker room on Tuesday. "The bye week, some people don't want an early bye week but for me, it worked out as far as timing coming back from a high ankle [sprain].

"I felt like I probably could've played during the bye week if we had a game then, but I was fortunate enough to have the bye week to rest," Ekeler added.

The veteran running back had a big Week 1, with 20 touches for 164 yards from scrimmage, but has been out since. He made his return to practice prior to Week 4, but in a limited fashion, ultimately being listed as doubtful against the Raiders.

But during the bye, Ekeler made sure to keep working towards a recovery in Costa Mesa that led to his participation in Tuesday's practice.

"It wasn't necessarily that I was pushing it but making sure to continue to keep maintenance on it," Ekeler said. "Even if you are healthy, you want to continue to move during the bye week, so it was one of those scenarios where, 'Okay, let's get out there'.

"Did a couple of workouts during the bye week here, felt really good and as a result was out there on the field today," Ekeler added.

As for Ekeler's confidence for a potential return in Week 6?

"99 percent," Ekeler said.

"I feel good," Ekeler later added. "It's taken a little bit to get back, just to being around football, reactive stuff, things like that, but it's something we'll work into this week and be ready to go."

The return to practice of key players following the bye week is a big step in the right direction — especially for a defense that looks to get back to reset and play the way they want to.

"I think the bye week came at the perfect time for all of us, the whole defense, the whole [team]," cornerback Michael Davis said.

"We have to play fundamental football," Davis later added. "I think we lacked that in the first four games. Now it's time for us to reset, reboot and come back and play all the fundamentals."

The Bolts defense now prepares to roll forward with the trio of Davis, Asante Samuel, Jr. and Ja'Sir Taylor after trading cornerback J.C. Jackson to the Patriots last week.

The move brings more clarity to the secondary and who has what role, but Davis noted the same focus is still required week in and week out.

"Now everything falls on me," Davis said. "I feel like me and J.C. were kind of competing for the spot. Competing to see who was starting every week. It was kind of the unknown every week.

"I guess you can say that in a way but it's still the same output every week," Davis later added when asked about the roles being 'more set-in stone'. "Got to go out there and perform. I've got to play better. Obviously, it's defined but I still have to play better."

It was a good day for the team and all back to business for the Bolts on Tuesday in Costa Mesa, as the team now looks forward to this second stretch of the season after the bye.

"[Chargers Head] Coach [Brandon Staley] always talks about having a vibe every day in practice and how it's contagious and things like that," said safety Dean Marlowe. "Our mindset is just keep focusing day-to-day and obviously the goal is to win every game we play and that can be done. That's our mindset."

Fellow safety Raheem Layne added: "Everybody is ready to get back out here. Feels good being back with the guys, getting a vibe. That's one of the coolest things about a locker room that people might not get a chance to really catch, how really connected and cool a locker room can be. Here, we always got a vibe out there. The music's going, we're laughing, but we still handle the business."

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