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Austin Ekeler: Signing with Washington about sharing workload, reuniting with Anthony Lynn

Austin Ekeler's departure from Los Angeles didn't come as a surprise -- in fact, it was a foregone conclusion for some time.

His choice for his next stop, however, was interesting. Ekeler decided to leave the only team he'd known in his NFL life to the nation's capital to play for the Washington Commanders, where the veteran back will play a complementary role to the younger Brian Robinson.

As Ekeler explained it Monday, it's a role he knows well and would like to replicate alongside a familiar face in former Chargers coach (and current Commanders running backs coach) Anthony Lynn.

"Yeah, it was just an opportunity to come in and be this two-back backfield, back where I was feeling the best in my career with Melvin Gordon and I when I was going through my first contract," Ekeler explained. "That really was intriguing to me, just the philosophies, being in a room with coach Lynn as well as far as a running back coach.

"This man is an absolute guru. So just being back in a room with him I know will definitely keep me focused, keep me locked in and give me the best opportunity to push myself as a player. And so that was the opportunity and the environment I wanted to be in."

Ekeler needed a fresh start. He'd found himself embroiled in a contract dispute with a Chargers front office that was unwilling to consider a long-term future with him, and after one of the most frustrating and disappointing seasons in some time for the Chargers in 2023, it was time to move on.

He turns 29 in May, and if he needed more motivation than his ticking career clock, he appears to have found it with Lynn and in a role in which he won't have to be the sole producer in the backfield. At this stage in his career, he'll be best utilized as a pass-catching back anyway, which should help keep Robinson fresh and fill the void left by the departures of Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic over the last 360 days.

If he produces more than that, it will be a bonus for a Washington team that is still charting its course offensively following an offseason regime change.

"We're in the business of sports, and in the business of sports, you're gonna go through ups and downs depending on coaches and players and staff and support," Ekeler said of what he's learned about the NFL over the last few years. "There's so much that goes into the ecosystem of sports, and you're always trying to be the most competitive that you can possibly be and trying to sustain that for as long as you can, but unfortunately, as we even experienced last year with the Chargers, going through some down years. So you try to bring in a new chemistry, new players to try to turn it around, and that's exactly what we have going on here. So I'm excited to do it.

"I've seen it done before with actually coach Lynn as my head coach, where we made a couple of runs to the playoffs or a run to the playoffs. And so I know it's been done before. I've seen it. We saw it last year too with the Texans, how they went through their season; they had a bounce-back season. So it's been done before, and those things that have been done before can be done again. So I'm looking forward to bringing some energy over here and getting ourselves on the right path, and it doesn't have to take long. I think we can get some going this year."

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