Now that the Los Angeles Rams have announced the start of training camp, the countdown to defending their Lombardi Trophy has officially begun. Because LA played the longest season in NFL history at 21 weeks, Sean McVay cut down the the Rams offseason official team activities (OTAs) period from nine weeks to eight.
As well as the long season, McVay cited the lack of recovery time for the Rams spate of late-season injuries and post season surgeries as the reason to work “above the neck” in OTAs. LA’s injury list is long and filled with contributors, both big names and role players. The six-week break between OTAs and training camp will huge for the Rams to rehab and condition these injured players.
Being nicked up is nothing new for Stafford. Fans were dismayed last season when the strong-armed gunslinger under threw open receivers, but it came out after the season that he wasn’t completely healed from a 2020 injury. He had an anti-inflammatory injection after the Super Bowl win and did not throw during OTAs to let his elbow rehab.
In his long career, he has battled toe and ankle, shoulder, knee, back, ribs and numerous hand and finger injuries. Even with all the various ailments, Stafford has only missed eight games (all in 2019) in the last 11 years.
A torn Achilles tendon used to be the death knell for NFL players, but cutting-edge surgical procedures, new protocols for treatment and a young man’s bust-ass work ethic has put Akers in position to resume his career. He tore his heel last July and returned for the Rams final game of the season.
In the playoffs, his stats were modest, but he looked to run with power and burst. The Rams playoffs and Super Bowl run game, overall, was lacking pop. Akers has had extra rehab time and his progress/recovery will need scrutiny through training camp.
Where to begin? Hendo has been working lightly this during OTAs due to a recurring soft tissue injury, but there’s a laundry list of past injuries. Elbow and thumb problems, ankle and knee sprains, separated rib cartilage, and the soft tissue thigh/hamstring tribulations.
And all the others
It’s not breaking news that all the Rams backs have had injury woes. Kyren Williams has already broken his foot in OTAs. Jake Funk has the oft-mentioned two knee injuries from college and missed games as a rookie with a hamstring tweak. Raymond Calais, LA’s true speed back and possible kick returner, suffered a broken foot that required surgery last preseason and spent the season on the Injured Reserve List (IR). Xavier Jones also spent the season on IR with Achilles tendon surgery.
During the second half of the season, Jefferson battled through a knee injury that he suffered in week eight. Although his presence on weekly injury reports lasted until the Super Bowl, he still lined up for 85+ percent of offensive snaps.
As the Rams number three receiver, he produced 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns. In the playoff run he added nine catches for 102 yards.
Last year, Atwell struggled with his transition to the pro game and the pressure of being the Rams top draft pick. He only played in 10 offensive snaps and had 15 punt and kickoff returns. He injured his shoulder in week eight versus the Houston Texans, had surgery and missed the remainder of the season.
He’s been a participant in OTAs and has drawn praise from Rams coaches and players for his improvement from last season. He has the skillset to add value to the offense, it becomes a matter of him getting comfortable with the pro game. There has always been, and will always be, questions about the “small guys” NFL role.
Suffered two knee sprains as a college senior and a third in last January’s NFC title game win over the San Francisco 49ers. He missed the Super Bowl and would eventually have surgery. He was active in OTAs.
NFL tight ends take a beating and Higbee is no different. He’s fought off knee, hand, chest, ankle and knee issues. He missed two regular season games in 2021 but played in 92-percent of snaps in the games he was active.
Blanton only played 148 offensive snaps, but helped out in the playoffs with seven catches, on as many targets, for 75 yards and a touchdown. He was injured and went out early in the Super Bowl with a sprained shoulder. He was back at full strength for OTAs.
In 2019, his second year, he won the starting job at left guard before tearing the ACL and MCL in his knee. Again in 2020, Noteboom won the starting left guard role and ended up missing six games with a calf injury. Later in ‘20, he took over the left tackle role for an injured Andrew Whitworth.
Last season, Noteboom missed two regular season games with COVID19, struggled late with a back problem and missed the NFC Championship and Super Bowl games with a pectoral strain. He has missed 20 games because of injury in the last three years.
Allen missed the final nine games of 2019 with a knee injury and then all of 2020 rehabbing the knee and battling COVID-19. He regained his starting role in 2021 and missed one full game and most of two others with elbow and knee sprains. In the games he was active, Allen played 100 percent of the offensive snaps.
It was reported earlier this week that Ramsey had surgery to repair tears in BOTH of his shoulders and should be ready for training camp. He was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year.
Needed minor clean-up surgery on his wrist at the beginning of camp last season and went on the IR for three weeks in December with a rib cage injury. In both cases, he was ready to go within a couple of weeks and has been at full strength during OTAs.
The captain and defensive play caller injured an ankle in the final regular season game and missed the Rams playoff run and Super Bowl victory. The injury would require surgery, he’s been brought along slowly and should be ready for camp.
Missed the final two regular and opening two playoff games with a high ankle sprain that required minor surgery. He returned to log 93-percent of defensive snaps in the Super Bowl win and has been active in OTAs.
Howard won a starting role in 2020 before a torn meniscus in his knee shelved him for the season. He had some minor knee problems mid-season in 2021 (missing five games), but overcame them and logged 111 defensive snaps in the playoffs and an interception in the NFC Title Game win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The lanky left end played the entire 2021 season through the pain of an ankle injury that would require off-season surgery. He also had some concussion problems late in the year. Floyd has started all 33 games since coming to LA and took part in 85-percent of defensive snaps
Hollins won the starting role last season, but suffered a torn pectoral muscle in week three. He would miss nine weeks and when he returned, the Rams had acquired Von Miller. Hollins was relegated to a backup rotational role, getting limited snaps. He has been active in OTAs.
Will 2022 be the season when Lewis reaches his ceiling? It’s a high one, but the Rams knew they were taking a calculated risk when they drafted him. He missed the equivalent of over two full seasons at Alabama with major injuries and has bounced back-and-forth on the Rams injury reports for both his professional seasons.
He’s a marvelous mix of size, athleticism, and power who can set the edge, rush the passer, and drop into coverage. All that said, he has 27 tackles over his two years in LA. His defensive snaps did rise in 2021 to 367, up from 124 as a rookie and in that modest amount of tackles he chalked up five sacks, six tackles for loss, and 11 QB pressures.
A pretty healthy unit, no important injuries to report. Jonah Williams, when released mid-season and picked up by the Minnesota Vikings, did not pass his physical in the Great White North and was re-signed by the Rams. All others seem good to go.
Injuries are par for the NFL course
All teams must battle the injury bug, but only the LA Rams will battle the bug and defend the NFL Championship. Opposing teams will bring their “A” game on a weekly basis, beating the defending champion could be the only feather in a losing team’s cap.
With the schedule they face, the Rams will need to be running on all cylinders. Even though last season’s injuries gave important seasoning to backups and role players, they have a depth chart for a reason and LA will need all of its starters healthy to ensure a strong run back to the playoffs and Super Bowl.