Cooper Kupp is on the road to recovery after tearing his ACL last season, aiming to be back for the start of the 2019 season. Les Snead said he’s right on track to be ready for training camp, though the team will be cautious with him during OTAs and the offseason program.
Kupp is a relentless competitor and wants to get back on the field as soon as possible, but he knows this isn’t a rehab process he can rush. Torn ACLs take a long time to recover from, sometimes up to a full year.
On the newest episode of the Rams’ “Behind the Grind” series, Kupp detailed exactly what happened on the play where he tore his ACL, while also sharing an update on his recovery. The injury came in Week 10 against the Seahawks, ending his season early.
“(Shaquill) Griffin was on the outside, so I kind of tried to burst him vertical because he was kind of sitting on the route, burst him vertical and get him going, and as soon as I put my foot in the ground, he was able to kind of collision me a little bit and — leg hit the ground and it obviously didn’t feel good. Something was wrong,” he said.
Kupp and training assistant Byron Cunningham won’t say whether the receiver is ahead of schedule or on track, but they feel good about his recovery. Kupp said he feels good where he is right now and continues to attack his rehab.
“I feel good. I don’t think we like to talk about being on pace or off pace, ahead or behind or anything like that, but I think I’m where I’m supposed to be,” Kupp said. “Now, to get back on the field and put cleats on for the first time since the injury, it feels like it really just kind of refreshes things and gives me some new motivation to be able to go attack this thing.”
Cooper Kupp quickly became one of the best slot receivers in the NFL after just one and a half seasons, proving to be Jared Goff’s favorite target. His rapid ascent was halted in Week 10, unfortunately, when he suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season.
He played just eight games but still finished with 40 catches on 55 targets, 566 yards and six touchdowns – tied for the team-high and one more than he had in 15 games as a rookie.
Sean McVay said at the NFL combine last week that Kupp is expected to be ready for training camp and 100 percent for the start of the season. That’s great news for the Rams, who have one of the best wide receiver units in the league.
Just because Kupp’s planning to be healthy for camp doesn’t mean he’ll be a full-go in practice this summer. Les Snead told ESPN’s Matthew Berry that the Rams will ease him into action during OTAs and training camp.
“He’s progressing well. If you know Cooper, he’s going to work extremely hard,” Snead said. “If there’s a hard worker – if there’s a 10 out there, he’s a 12, he’s a 13. You almost want to say, ‘Hey Cooper, you need to take a break. You need to go on vacation.’ But that would be fruitless. He’s not listening to you. He would go somewhere else and work hard. So he’s progressing. I think what we will do, though, through OTAs, through training camp, is definitely manage him, ease him in. We know Cooper Kupp can play.”
Snead said there’s “no doubt” Kupp will be available Week 1 of the regular season, and given the timing of the injury, that should come as no surprise. That gives him almost 10 full months to recover, and some players have come back from torn ACLs in as little as six months.
The Rams will still take it slow and limit the chance of re-injury by bringing him along slowly during practice and likely the preseason.
“The goal is to make sure he’s fully recuperated and really take a lot of the risk out of doing anything else to it through those, let’s call it, times of the year where they’re not keeping score,” Snead added.
With Kupp healthy, Goff will have his usual trio of receivers with Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods returning in 2019. The Rams were at their best when Kupp was healthy, and as good as Josh Reynolds was, Kupp is a real difference-maker.
Kupp tore his ACL during Los Angeles’ Week 10 victory over the Seahawks at the L.A. Coliseum. And even though the Rams were able to win a conference championship, losing Kupp certainly impacted the offense.
“Cooper’s a great player,” McVay said. “I think when you just talk about the things that he was able to provide our football team, he was so consistent, so versatile in terms of a guy that is really a great productive player in the run game. Obviously, in the pass game he did an outstanding job. He’s a guy that, situationally, was a big part of our offense — whether it be in the red zone or on third down. So you certainly missed him.”
To McVay’s point, Kupp caught eight passes on 11 targets in the red zone, three of which resulted in touchdowns. Eight of Kupp’s 10 receptions on third down resulted in first downs. And despite playing in only eight games, Kupp still finished tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions. Overall, Kupp caught 40 passes for 566 yards with those eight TDs in 2018.
“He’s making great progress. He’s one of the most conscientious players that I’ve ever seen. He’s already worried about, ‘Am I going to miss some things in OTAs?’ — things like that,” McVay said. “But talking to Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache and Reggie Scott, he’s in great shape and right on pace to be ready to go, especially with training camp.”
So that appears to be the target — training camp, which will start in late July. But even so, McVay seemed like the team will do its best to make sure Kupp isn’t rushed back too soon.
“We want to have a long-term vision with him,” McVay said. “But he’s already doing things that I think are probably way ahead of what normally would be the process from an ACL. But we feel really good about the way he’s going to respond.”
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead sat alongside Eric Weddle on Tuesday as they introduced the veteran safety as their newly signed free agent.
The topic, however, turned — as it has since he inexplicably disappeared in the NFC Championship Game — to running back Todd Gurley II and the status of his left knee.
Snead was asked multiple times if Gurley has arthritis in his knee, which was surgically repaired in 2014, and which kept him sidelined because of inflammation and soreness in the final two games of the regular season.
But Snead repeatedly avoided the question.
“What we said is he’s had a lot of carries over the last few years,” Snead said. “And so anything you hear us say, any plan is basically hey — and I would say this not just with Todd Gurley, right, it might be with our wide receivers because they’ve played a lot of snaps over the last few years — is hey, what can we do to help those guys be as fresh as possible at the end of the season.”
Last season, Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards and scored a league-best 21 touchdowns in 14 games. Including the postseason, Gurley had 286 carries.
Snead was asked to verify the accuracy of a report, citing unnamed sources, that said Gurley has arthritis.
Snead responded: “That would be good then, because all you got to do is take Aleve. Right?”
And finally, when told that it was a “yes” or “no” question, Snead provided no definitive answer.
“With all NFL players when it comes to trying to be fresh at the end of the year, there is an element of probably shades of gray of how fresh you are and what that reason is,” Snead said. “So I would counter your, ‘It’s either a yes or a no.’ I’m not sure you’ve ever gone through a 16-game NFL season, but if you have you probably would understand that shade of gray.”
McVay also was asked if Gurley was hindered by arthritis late in the season. “I don’t know exactly medically when you categorize what arthritis is,” McVay said, adding, “I do know that just from the amount of work that he’s had, there’s been a wear and tear on that knee.”
As questions loom over Gurley’s knee, and whether he is suffering from a potential long-term ailment, this much is certain: Gurley, who last July signed a four-year extension worth $60 million, with $45 million guaranteed, remains the Rams’ starting running back.
But the Rams also are intent on fielding a second back who can be depended on to carry some of the load.
Budget allowing, C.J. Anderson is a priority to bring back in free agency. Malcolm Brown, who received an original-round tender on Tuesday, also is a candidate to get more time in the backfield.
Brown suffered a clavicle injury in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions that sidelined him for the season. Before the injury, Brown proved himself as a reliable backup as he rushed for 212 yards in 43 carries and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Anderson was cut by three teams last season before he joined the Rams in mid-December. In Gurley’s absence, the sixth-year pro rushed for a combined 299 yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.
“I got a really good gut that if we go the free-agent route it will be re-signing C.J.,” Snead said. “Because the key was you want all those guys to complement each other. So that would be my gut in free agency.”
Gurley and Anderson shared the load in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys as they combined for 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns. McVay said their performance inspired a game plan that included shared carries in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIII.
Former Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold intends to sign a four-year, $44 million deal that includes $22.5 million guaranteed with the Tennessee Titans, a source tells ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Last season, Saffold played an instrumental role in helping to protect quarterback Jared Goff as he passed for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, and was sacked 33 times. Saffold also helped spring running back Todd Gurley to a second consecutive 1,000-plus-yard season, as Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Saffold was third among all guards in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate last season (min. 300 blocks), holding his blocks for at least 2.5 seconds 87.4 percent of the time, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Former Los Angeles Rams franchise safety Lamarcus Joyner plans to sign a four-year deal with the Oakland Raiders, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The deal is worth $42 million with $21.3 million guaranteed, $16.7 million of which is fully guaranteed at signing, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
After the Los Angeles Rams and Joyner were unable to come to a long-term agreement, he played last season on the franchise tag and earned $11.28 million. He intercepted one pass and ranked third on the team with 78 tackles.
The Raiders’ deal with Joyner comes just two days after the team reportedly agreed to a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers for All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown. Oakland will be handing Brown a three-year deal worth up to $54.125 million, with $30.125 million guaranteed, a source told Schefter.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — At this time last year, the Los Angeles Rams were working on winning the offseason. With a new league year set to begin Wednesday, an attempt to recapture that momentum is underway.
On Sunday night, the eve of the legal tampering period, the Rams agreed to terms on a new contract with outside linebacker Dante Fowler. A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a one-year deal.
Two days earlier, the Rams signed Eric Weddle to a two-year deal worth up to $12.5 million, with $5.25 million guaranteed, following the veteran safety’s release by the Baltimore Ravens.
The return of Fowler and addition of Weddle, a two-time All Pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection, solves two glaring needs before free agency begins.
Coming off an appearance in Super Bowl LIII, the Rams have a host of starters who are set to test the market Monday: Left guard Rodger Saffold, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and safety Lamarcus Joyner.
Prior to Sunday night’s agreement, Fowler also was expected to test the market as an unrestricted free agent.
Prior to Fowler’s new deal and Weddle’s addition, the Rams had $35.1 million in salary cap space, according to ESPN Stats and Information. They declined to pick up the second-year option on center John Sullivan’s contract and released inside linebacker Mark Barron. Those moves saved more than $13 million in their salary cap.
This offseason, defensive players have taken priority.
Fowler’s return solves the most pressing offseason need of securing a pass-rusher, a must-have position in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.
“He’s got a motor and he loves football and he certainly is talented,” Rams coach Sean McVay told reporters at the combine. “So definitely want to be able to try and get Dante back and that would be a big part of emphasis for us.”
The Rams acquired Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars ahead of the trade deadline. He played in eight regular-season games and had two sacks, a forced fumble and pass deflection. His contributions steadily grew, and his biggest impact was felt in the NFC Championship Game, when he had a key pressure against Drew Brees that forced the veteran quarterback into an errant throw that was intercepted.
Rams general manager Les Snead said Fowler was a priority to sign in free agency, instead the Rams do not have to worry about bidding against other teams in a market hot for pass-rushers.
Weddle’s addition satisfies the need for a safety.
Last season, Joyner played on the franchise tag and earned $11.28 million after the two sides were unable to come to terms on an extension. Joyner was set to test the market, but after the Rams signed Weddle, it is clear that Joyner will be moving on in a crowded field of free agent safeties.
Weddle, 34, will start alongside third-year pro John Johnson III. In three seasons with the Ravens, Weddle intercepted 10 passes — though he experienced a drop in production last season with no interceptions, and only three pass deflections.
Even with their needs at outside linebacker and safety solved ahead of free agency, the Rams still must bulk up their linebacking corps and find a starter to replace Barron, build depth on the offensive line in case Saffold signs a lucrative deal elsewhere, and solidify the defensive line as Suh tests the market.
PITTSBURGH — After Pitt football finishes its spring practice sessions, a group of older players typically filters in, beginning to work individually.
One of those players, almost every day, is former Pitt All-American and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald still lives in the area during the offseason, and is one of Pitt’s most visible alumni, not just working out at the facility, but visiting practices and attending games.
There are many fans of the reigning two-time NFL defensive player of the year in Pitt’s current program, but there are probably none bigger than redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman. Twyman has a similar build to Donald, and he has similar ambitions: to become one of the best defensive tackles in Pitt history. He even went as far to change his uniform number to Donald’s 97 before the upcoming season.
“The reason why I wanted to change my number is the same reason why Lebron wears 23,” Twyman said after practice on Thursday. “[Aaron Donald] is a person that I am inspired by and motivated by so I just thought it was a business decision and I want a be a great player like himself.”
After talking with reporters, Twyman stopped by to say hello to Donald, something he does any opportunity he gets.
“I try to ask him a couple questions here and there,” Twyman said. “I just pick his brain, I want to pick his brain every time I get to talk to him.”
Twyman has plenty of room to grow in 2019. After starting out 2018 toward the back of the Pitt rotation, playing behind Shane Roy, Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp. Twyman experienced an increase in playing time after Camp went down with a season-ending injury midway through the year. In all last year, Twyman played in 13 games, while making one start and recording 16 total tackles.
He’s hoping that experience leads to growth in 2019.
“I feel more mature and I feel like I slowed the game down a lot with the reps that I got last year,” Twyman said. “I am just trying to help the young guys slow the game down with the young d-tackles we’ve got in our program now.”
For Pitt, the defensive tackle group has a chance to be special. They have a lot of young but promising talent coming back for the 2019 season. In addition to Camp, Watts and Twyman, second-year players Tyler Bentley and Devin Danielson are expected to push for playing time. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge has made a significant impact on them as a whole and is optimistic about the success they can have next year as a unit.
“We are a vertical attack type of defense,” coach Partridge said after practice. “We are working on getting up the field. We are are a vertical charged attack team. You know with Keyshon and Twyman and Amir Watts, those guys are showing that they are getting real good at how to vertically attack and make good, fast decisions. The other guys that are young and behind them are really learning from them so I am excited about the stats that they can produce for us.”
As Jaylen Twyman proudly discussed his new uniform number, the Pitt football legend who used to wear it was stretching just a few feet away.
Since Aaron Donald’s senior year in 2013, only two Panthers have sported No. 97, and both probably just had it handed to them by an equipment manager when they joined the program. Twyman, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, had the gumption to switch to it after being No. 55 his first two years.
“The reason why I wanted to change my number is the same reason why LeBron wears 23,” Twyman said with a smirk, essentially calling Donald the Michael Jordan of Pitt defensive tackles. “He’s a person I’m inspired by and motivated by, so I just made a business decision that I want to be a great player.”
According to Twyman, who had 16 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack last year in his first active season, coach Pat Narduzzi was all for it “as long as my work ethic matches that.” That’s no easy task, but Twyman also isn’t worried about any lofty expectations that might come with the jersey.