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Once football's glamour position, running back is currently under attack by a system that has diminished their monetary value. Austin Ekeler -- with his and his peers' livelihoods being challenged -- has offered a temporarily solution that could lead to better days for him and the league's other top-tier running backs. 

The solution was formed during a private meeting between organized by Ekeler that included some of the league's top backs, including Ekeler, Tennessee's Derrick Henry, San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey, Cleveland's Nick Chubb, New York's Saquon Barkley, Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs and Pittsburgh's Najee Harris. The issue at hand was the financial hit that the running back position has taken recently, as many of the league's best backs are playing well below their market value. 

"All the running backs out there, what we can do in the short term is to continue to make an impact," Ekeler said during a one-on-one interview with CBS Sports. "I'm going to go out there and try to score as many touchdowns as I can, play my game, be consistent, make a big impact. And also, when we get asked about it, have some type of narrative. For us, we need to have some consistent messaging when it comes to that. … That's why we had to have those calls. Things like that are things we can do in the short term to help ourselves out." 

Ekeler is among the league's top backs who are grossly underpaid. While his current market value is $12.82 million per season (via Spotrac), Ekeler's 2023 salary includes a $6.5 million base salary and a $1.5 million signing bonus. He requested a trade this offseason over his salary before accepting the Chargers' offer of an extra $1.75 million in incentives for what is his final year under his current contract. 

Austin Ekeler
WAS • RB • #30
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Barkley recently accepted a similar offer from the Giants after contract talks stalled. Jonathan Taylor, the league's rushing champion in 2021, has requested a trade after Colts owner Jim Irsay reinstated that he would not extend Taylor's contract before the start of the 2023 season. Former Pro Bowler Joe Mixon took a pay cut to avoid possibly being released by the Bengals. Two other notable running backs, Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott, are currently unsigned. 

Chubb, the last running back to receive deal that pays him over $10 million annually, recently said that "there's really nothing we can do" regarding the current situation facing his peers. Ekeler doesn't think that that's the case. 

"Something that we can continue to do now is to continue to make an impact," Ekeler said. "Continue to go out there and be a pivotal part of your offense. I know Nick Chubb is one of those people who is that. I just don't think he understands that him playing at a high level continues to prove why running backs should be valued at their current market value. … For me, there's a couple things that we can do, but obviously there's things longterm that we'll have to get together on and continue to talk about." 

Ekeler is hoping that, by himself and other elite backs playing at a high level, they can kill the narrative that running backs are expendable. That way, things may be better down the road for Harris and the league's other top young backs when they are ready to negotiate new contracts. 

"My thing is continue to keep your head up," Ekeler said when asked what advice he would give to Harris and the league's other top young running backs. "There's been a few running backs who have come out and said don't play the position. I could not disagree with that more. Yeah, we're going through a period where there's some controversy, there's some pushback on us, but we're not giving up. We're not going to let all this work we put in go to waste, because guess what? We do make an impact. Whether these owners believe it or not, we do make a significant impact to offenses. Go down and talk to these coordinators that have stud running backs and they're going to say, 'Yes, we need this guy on the field because our offense is different when he's on the field as opposed to when he is not.'

"For a guy like Najee, it's like continue to play at a high level. And for us older guys, we've got to help you out. We've got to make sure we're fighting for this. … This is a brotherhood."

While he'd obviously prefer to have a new contract, Ekeler is looking forward to playing and putting his talents on display this season. The 28-year-old Ekeler was been one of the NFL's most productive players during the past two seasons. Over that span, he scored 38 touchdowns in 33 games and averaged 96.8 all purpose yards per game. Ekeler is part of a talented Chargers offense that includes quarterback Justin Herbert and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams

Ekeler is also more than up to the challenge when it comes improving the situation regarding running backs. Ekeler, after all, is used to overcoming obstacles. He was lightly recruited coming out of high school despite scoring 43 touchdowns during his senior season at Colorado's Eaton High. He wasn't drafted in 2017 despite having nearly 6,000 rushing yards and 63 total touchdowns in four years at Western State. Ekeler ultimately signed with the Chargers and -- after starting his NFL career as Melvin Gordon's backup -- quickly became one of the NFL's most versatile running backs. Last season, he became only the fifth running back in league history to catch at least 100 passes in a season. 

"I feel like that's what I live for," said Ekeler, whose foundation strives to provide opportunities to those in need by bringing reusable resources to communities across the nation. "I really, truly enjoy coming up with solutions and trying to build through hard times. … For me, that's how I find fulfillment. How can we do things to make things better? Just try to make the world a better place.

"This is another one of those where it's like, OK, we are going through some things, let me put myself in position to help. I want to be part of helping, because we have people hurting. Let's see if we can do anything to help that go away." 

Ekeler keeps a busy schedule. Along with his work on the football field and with his fellow running backs, he recently took part in a soccer clinic that was hosted by Real Madrid Football Club's annual Summer Tour. The clinic, which was championed by Abbott, included a scrimmage between athletes and influencers that was won by Ekeler's team. 

"It was a pretty cool experience," Ekeler said. "I took time over the summer to try some new things. This clinic popped up, and it was really just kind of an awareness of nutrition and soccer. For us, it was pretty cool because there was a bunch of different athletes and influencers there and we got to learn a little bit about the soccer ecosystem." 

Ekeler is a big fan of Abbott's Ensure Max Protein drink, which includes 30 grams of protein and just one gram of sugar. 

"When it comes to different protein shakes, for me, it comes down to am I getting my essential nutrients," Ekeler said. "The fact that it actually tastes good on top of that is obviously a plus. They're nice, small serving sizes, you have all the nutrients and it tastes good. It's pretty hard to go wrong."