The backlash to the depressed running back market continues.
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who got the conversation going this year with his failed effort to get a long-term deal or a trade to a new team, wants answers. From owners.
Ekeler, appearing on CBS Sports Radio with Zach Gelb, reiterated his frustrations with the current market for the men who fuel the running game —
and who play a key supplemental role in the passing game.
“From a player’s aspect, we have no control,” Ekeler said. “I have no control. So really who we want answers from is the ownership. Like, why are you doing this?
What’s the reason? Like, you aren’t interviewing them about it. Like, how many owners have you talked to about this? Zero.” “I would love to,” Gelb said.
“I know,” Ekeler said. “They ain’t gonna say anything, either. Because, for whatever reason, they’ve got this thing going on where it’s like a new trend, like, ‘Oh, let’s not pay these guys.’
I don’t know, maybe they’re just testing us. Like, ‘Hey, let’s see what happens.’ But, you know, you poke the bear and you’re gonna make us have to do something.”
The reality, as Ekeler explained it, is that running backs are carrying the ball, scoring touchdowns,
generating interest in fantasy football, selling jerseys, and otherwise “making a big impact.” But they can’t get paid.
Ekeler also acknowledged that the dynamic is a product of the processes “that we’ve agreed upon . . . whether it’s right or wrong, now it’s for us to decide.”
The bigger question is what can be done? Ekeler mentioned the possibility of holdouts, or possibly hold-ins.
Those can be very expensive, given the rules regarding fines and other financial penalties that apply when players under contract withhold services.
Also, when a veteran doesn’t practice or play, a younger player gets a chance to replace him.
The time to take a stand, frankly, would have been during the offseason program. Running backs could have, for example,
boycotted the voluntary workouts and OTAs at no financial penalty (but for losing their offseason workout bonuses, for those who have them).
Coordinating a mass boycott of voluntary workouts is far easier said than done.
Young players looking to prove themselves and make the 53-man rosters will be inclined to show up and show what they can do,
in the hopes of getting one of the jobs currently held by higher-priced veterans who choose to stay away.
The entire issue is complicated, with no simple solution. Running backs, as we’ve argued in the past, should have their own union.
Running backs, as we’ve argued in the past, should have a quicker path to free agency. Running backs, as we’ve argued in the past,
should be paid by a league-wide fund for their yards gained and touchdowns scored when they are making the league minimum.
All those things should happen. The challenge becomes getting the league and the union to want to do any, some, or all of them. For now, there’s simply no viable path toward that objective.