COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers broke their two-day mandatory minicamp on Wednesday, bound for a six-week break before reporting to training camp in late July.
While uncertainty remains regarding a timeline for a contract extension for quarterback Justin Herbert, this much is clear: Herbert intends to be on the field at training camp and will have a full arsenal of playmakers to distribute the football to.
“When it comes time [for training] camp, the role of the quarterback is to be out there for his team and to do everything he can to put that team in a position to win,” Herbert said when asked about potentially following suit of previous teammates who have reported but not participated in camp amid contract negotiations.
“I understand that responsibility.”
This week, after settling his own contract dispute, running back Austin Ekeler participated in mandatory minicamp, and after recovering from a season-ending back injury, receiver Mike Williams starred in 7-on-7 drills.
The Chargers granted Ekeler permission in March to seek a trade after he expressed dissatisfaction with his current deal — a four-year, $24.5 million contract that included $6.25 million in his upcoming final season.
However, despite leading the NFL with 18 touchdowns in 2022, no market materialized.
“I understood the situation it would put someone in,” Ekeler said. “Giving up draft picks and having to renegotiate a contract is a pretty big ask.”
The Chargers eventually added $1.75 million in incentives to Ekeler’s deal, including potential paydays for accumulating rushing and receiving yards, touchdowns and earning Pro Bowl recognition.
“The atmosphere around the running back market, it’s been pretty tough,” said Ekeler, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and turned 28 last month. “Ended up coming back here and I am thankful for the way it played out because the Chargers did give me something in the middle, some type of incentive.”
Coach Brandon Staley emphasized respect for Ekeler throughout the process and welcomed his return.
“Austin is just how he always is, just so consistent,” Staley said. “He comes out here and he just lights it up. He’s in such great shape. He’s such a professional. He’s on top of his assignments.”
During two days of minicamp, Williams left no question that he has recovered from a small back fracture suffered during a Week 18 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“I’m good,” Williams said. “I was training, putting in some work before this, so I was ready,”
And Williams appeared to harbor no ill feelings that he suffered the injury during what became an end-of-season debacle for the Bolts, with Staley opting to play starters in a final regular-season contest despite having already clinched a playoff berth.
“The coach wanted to play, so that’s what we had to do,” Williams said. “It’s what we get paid to do, play football, so I mean, I was with whatever decision he made.”
Williams, who was unavailable in a 31-30 wild-card playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, said he was cleared to return to football activities two to three weeks after the season ended.
“He’s such a big part of what we do and how we do it,” Staley said. “He’s had a fantastic two days out there and he’s ready to have a great training camp.”
Chargers’ Justin Herbert says he’ll participate in camp amid talks