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Rams’ dilemma: When to play Cam Akers?

Rams’ dilemma: When to play Cam Akers?

INGLEWOOD — Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday he wasn’t “officially” ruling out Cam Akers playing Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

But McVay said Akers’ return from an Achilles tendon tear suffered in July wouldn’t be accelerated by the fact the Rams are down a running back with Darrell Henderson going on injured reserve.

“This is a significant injury that he’s coming back from,” McVay said of Akers. “We want to make sure we’re checking all the boxes.

“He’s felt good, he’s looked good (in practice). Whether that means he goes this week or not, we’ve still got some time to make that determination.”

The Rams’ dilemma was evident when cornerback Jalen Ramsey was asked about Akers, with whom he feels kinship as a fellow Florida State alum.

“Cam’s still working to get back, let me say that,” Ramsey said of Akers, who returned to practice last week and was activated from IR on Saturday. “Personally, I don’t like the perception that he’s already back, or that he may be getting pushed to get back or anything like that.

“It’s a process, it’s a journey that he’ll continue to go on. He’ll continue to grind and rehab. And when the time is right for him to be 100% and ready to come back and contribute to the team, obviously we’re going to welcome him back.”

Ramsey said he’s “trying to think about more than the short term with Cam.”

“He’s young. He’s in year two. He’s got his whole career ahead of him. I definitely don’t want Cam to feel like anybody is rushing him back, that his journey needs to speed up at all,” Ramsey said.

“He’ll keep doing what he’s doing. He’s working extremely hard. He’s God-gifted. When the time is right, and he’s feeling good, we’ll definitely love having him back.”

Akers became the Rams’ No. 1 running back by the end of his rookie year in 2020, when he carried 145 times for 625 yards and caught 11 passes for 123, and he was looking forward to a full season in that role before he was injured in a pre-training-camp workout.

By October, the Rams saw that Akers’ rehabilitation was going well enough that he might be back for the final game of the regular season Jan. 9 against the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium or the first game of the playoffs.

It wasn’t until they watched his return to practice, McVay said, that coaches and trainers thought he could be ready for game action this week when the Rams (11-4) face the Ravens (8-7) in Baltimore.

“You just see him out here moving around, he’s an incredible athlete,” McVay said.

With Henderson (knee) placed on IR on Tuesday, the Rams might love for Akers to step right back into his No. 1 role or split time initially with Sony Michel, who averaged more than 100 yards rushing per game in December.

But the coach said Ramsey’s assessment that Akers is still working his way back to game readiness is a “fair statement.”

The Rams haven’t made Akers available to reporters the past two weeks, and they don’t plan to do so until after he plays.

McVay said one obstacle to getting Akers ready for game action is that practice late in the season becomes less physical.

“To truly simulate game-like atmospheres and environments in these settings is very difficult,” McVay said Thursday after the Rams practiced at SoFi Stadium, which is covered and protected from the rain. “We’re not tackling. We’ve really exhausted all the opportunities we have to even wear pads.

“You can see the movement, all those things are natural. The thing that’s so challenging about football when you’re coming off an injury like that is so much of what the running back position entails is unscripted movements, reactionary things, playing underneath yourself. I think in those instances, he’s getting himself comfortable.

“We do want to be smart with it.”

NOTES

Aaron Donald was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month after producing six of the Rams’ 12 sacks – with eight tackles for loss and two forced fumbles – in their four victories in December. Oddly, it was only the third Player of the Month award (the first two were in 2018) for the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. …

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was activated Thursday after five days on the COVID-19 reserve list. Whitworth missed the Vikings game and was the only Rams starter on the COVID list this week. …

Safety Taylor Rapp (shoulder) and nose tackle Greg Gaines (hand) didn’t participate in practice for the second day in a row. McVay said the Rams were “just being precautious” with Rapp and that both players should be active Sunday. …

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) sat out practice a day after taking part on a limited basis. Jackson missed Baltimore’s past two games. …

McVay expressed admiration for John Madden, the Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach turned broadcaster who died Tuesday. McVay, 35, said he never met Madden and is too young to have seen him coach, but said: “You talk about one of the all-time great ambassadors for this game, John Madden checks all those boxes.”









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