Former pro blasts Commanders RB Austin Ekeler's offseason attitude

This was an out-of-the-blue shot.
Austin Ekele
Austin Ekele / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler's arrival to the Washington Commanders comes with a significant amount of intrigue attached. The running back chose this franchise specifically thanks to the presence of Brian Robinson Jr. and the improved coaching staff in place. This looks like an immediate upgrade over Antonio Gibson, who departed in free agency for the New England Patriots.

Ekeler's prolific spell with the Los Angeles Chargers ended on a sour note. They didn't want to pay him the going rate with so much tread on the tires. The former undrafted free agent also revealed that Jim Harbaugh is looking for a bell-cow presence capable of carrying the football 300 times a season. That's not something he's willing to do at this stage of his NFL career.

Tiki Barber blasts Commanders RB Austin Ekeler for offseason mindset

This mindset was blasted by Tiki Barber during his radio show. The former All-Pro, who amassed 2,217 carries over 10 years in the league, criticized Ekeler for adopting this attitude. He also said there's a reason why Christian McCaffrey gets paid top dollar while others are languishing behind.

"It's so discouraging. You couldn't get me off the field. Be on the field all the time. Don't be a liability on third down. Catch the ball out of the backfield. Truck it through the offensive line 25 times a game. You wanna get paid, be that. That's what Christian McCaffrey does. That dude has had so many 100 percent participation games throughout his career. It makes no sense. You've got the Christian McCaffreys of the world who make $19 million a year, and then you've got these other guys who can't make eight, and then you wonder why. It's a mentality. You've gotta want to be on the field."

Tiki Barber

The player's responsibilities should be much more manageable in Washington. Ekeler was looking for a team with an already-established young running back in place. Robinson is exactly that after displaying notable growth last season en route to more than 1,100 all-purpose yards in 2023.

Barber is an old-school guy who played at a time when the running game was more prevalent. He wanted the football all the time and took severe punishment as a result. The game has changed for good or bad, so Ekeler is well within his right to take a perceived lesser role in the pursuit of career longevity.

Oh, Barber also forgot to mention McCaffrey featured just 10 times in two seasons for the Carolina Panthers between 2020-21 after being ridden into the ground.

A running back's shelf-life is shorter than ever in the modern-day NFL. Second contracts for backfield forces are a dying breed unless they firmly establish themselves. There's a reason why countless veterans flame out quickly. Defenders are becoming more explosive and physical. That increases the punishment they take, especially those who shoulder a heavy burden throughout their rookie deals.

Ekeler's accumulated 1,430 carries and receptions over seven seasons. The Chargers' offense ran through him despite having Philip Rivers and Justin Herbert as his quarterbacks. Couple this with the blocking responsibilities, and it's not hard to see why working as a tandem was his desired path heading into his eighth campaign in the pros.

Just why these comments riled Barber is anyone's guess. He's been retired for 18 years. Things have changed. Ekeler is looking out for himself and wants to find the best fit. It's early days, but the Commanders look like a place where he can thrive for the next two years at least.

And who knows, perhaps being part of a committee of rushers might get him another deal along the way.