IRVINE — Among the questions hanging over the Rams’ high expectations this season, one looms like a pin over a Super Bowl party balloon.
What if quarterback Matthew Stafford gets hurt?
The Rams found themselves facing that worry head-on Monday when Stafford went to the sideline after hitting his right thumb on a teammate’s helmet as he followed through on a pass late in a training camp practice.
There was no immediate indication of the severity of the injury, which affects the thumb on which Stafford had surgery in March to repair a ligament tear that hampered him the second half of the 2020 season.
“I don’t know anything yet. No more information yet,” said Coach Sean McVay, who dispenses all official Rams injury information.
McVay was asked what his gut reaction was when he saw this happen to his offense’s $27 million-per-year leader, for whom the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks to the Lions in January.
“Probably what you’d expect,” McVay said with a slight smile.
Let’s guess: Two words. Oh, blank.
“I think he’ll be OK. We’ll just see what happens,” McVay said.
The injury happened during the Rams’ last practice in shorts and helmets before they’re permitted to start working out in pads on Tuesday, and five days before they scrimmage against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in Oxnard. Scrimmages are the closest thing to game action Rams starters will get before the regular season opens on Sept. 12. McVay holds them out of preseason games to reduce the risk they’ll get hurt.
Other context only worsens the blow if Stafford has to miss any time.
It comes after the Rams lost No. 1 running back Cam Akers to an Achilles tear sustained in an offseason workout on July 19, leaving Darrell Henderson as the team’s only experienced ball carrier.
And the way it happened bears an eerie resemblance to Goff’s thumb injury in the second-to-last regular-season game of 2020.
Goff needed surgery, missed the final regular-season game and was benched in favor of John Wolford, one of the first public signs that the 2018 Super Bowl quarterback had fallen out of favor.
Monday, Wolford, 25, stepped up and took first-unit practice reps as Stafford, 33, had the hand bandaged by Reggie Scott, the Rams’ vice president of sports medicine and performance.
Wolford, former Steelers backup Devlin “Duck” Hodges and second-year undrafted player Bryce Perkins are the other quarterbacks on the 90-man roster.
Stafford walked off the field with the rest of the team after practice, the thumb wrapped, his helmet dangling by the face guard from his other fingers, briefly covering it all with a towel as he walked past reporters.
Later, Stafford was seen walking out of the Rams’ UC Irvine facilities with the right hand still in a wrap, working his phone with his left.
McVay wouldn’t speculate immediately after practice, at which point Stafford hadn’t been examined.
But the coach sounded hopeful that it’s not serious – or that if it is serious, Stafford could return sooner than most players, the way legend says he did in 12 seasons in Detroit.
“Look at what he played through all last year, having to get the thumb cleaned up,” McVay said.
Without referring to Goff’s identical incident, McVay called a hand-on-helmet mishap “something that consistently occurs” as quarterbacks follow through on throws over a rush.
“It’s one of those things where I’m saying to myself, man, I feel stupid that I didn’t implement some of the things to prevent that,” McVay said. “I’ve seen some teams around the league that have those shells on their helmet where you can at least soften the blow when you do come down on top of it.
“What you say is hopefully you don’t have to learn the hard way, and you start to implement things like that to try and minimize the risk of injury.”
In other injury news, McVay said he had no updates on rookie defensive back Robert Rochell (wrist) and defensive lineman Bobby Brown III (thumb).
But suddenly, those weren’t the biggest questions.
Leave a Reply