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Rams trying out Puka Nacua in new role at training camp

The rookie fifth round pick out of BYU could win the role of punt returner, in addition to being a key receiver

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The battle to be the L.A. Rams third wide receiver is not the only competition between third-year player Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua, At training camp practice on Saturday, it was apparent that the two are also in competition to be the Rams punt returner in 2023.

According to reports, Puka and Tutu are also competing against Austin Trammell, Kyren Williams, and Xavier Smith for that role. Almost every job on special teams is up for grabs and will be different from 2022, with punt returner as no exception.

Notably, Nacua has no known history as a kick or punt returner, either in high school or college.

He has, however, been a standout among all players for the Rams dating back to rookie minicamp, OTAs, mandatory minicamp, and the first few days of training camp. Though the odds are high for most fifth round picks to make the final roster, nothing was guaranteed to Puka based on draft status. However, it’s apparent through his first few months in the NFL that Nacua will have an important role on the team in 2023 as Sean McVay finds out which unproven players on the roster deserve long-term roles with L.A..

Atwell was picked much higher than Nacua, going in the second round of the 2021 draft, but he hasn’t done much at the NFL level through two seasons. He did return 23 punts for 296 yards in his final season at Louisville and he had 10 punt returns for 54 yards with the Rams during his rookie campaign.

He didn’t have any role on special teams in 2022, as Brandon Powell, now with the Minnesota Vikings, returned 24 of L.A.’s 25 punt returns. The other went to linebacker Jake Gervase on a technicality.

Kyren Williams had 14 punt returns for 151 yards in his final season at Notre Dame. Austin Trammell had 35 punt returns for 250 yards over four seasons at Rice and is the most experienced of the group. Smith had 14 returns for 78 yards at Florida A&M.