As injuries mount, meet the newest Rams … who used to be Rams

As they prepare for their NFC West opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the Rams took further steps Thursday to bolster a roster depleted by injuries and a suspension.

A day after signing edge rusher Takkarist McKinley, the Rams signed tight end Kendall Blanton and defensive back Shaun Jolly to the roster and veteran running back Malcolm Brown to the practice squad.

Blanton and Brown have history with the Rams. Brown played for the team from 2015 to 2020 and Blanton from 2019 to 2021.

“I’m just excited to be back in this culture, this organization that I’ve been in for so long,” Brown said. “Excitement is the only word.”

The Rams suffered a series of injuries before and during their 31-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.

Edge rusher Leonard Floyd played through a knee problem. Offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum suffered a season-ending ankle injury and cornerback Troy Hill was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Rookie cornerback Cobie Durant and fourth-year cornerback David Long suffered hamstring and groin injuries, respectively. And on Wednesday, NFL tight end Brycen Hopkins suspended three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The Rams signed McKinley from the Tennessee Titans practice team and paired the former UCLA first-round draft pick with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, who coached him with the Atlanta Falcons.

In 2017, the Falcons selected McKinley 26th overall in the draft. However, the Falcons declined to exercise their fifth-year option after McKinley generated 16½ sacks in his first three seasons. In his final season with the Falcons, he had a sack in four games before being released midseason.

Rams tight end Kendall Blanton scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay in the NFC playoffs last season.

Kendall Blanton scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay in the NFC playoffs last season. The tight end re-signed with the Rams on Thursday.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

McKinley, 26, played for the Cleveland Browns last season and had two and a half sacks in 11 games before suffering an Achilles injury.

Ten months later he practiced as an Aries for the first time.

“It’s been one hell of a journey just to get back on the field, just to get to this point and be back in an NFL locker room,” McKinley said, adding, “I’m just here to help though.” I can.”

Though Morris has at times described his background at McKinley as “rocky,” he said they’ve “always stayed pretty close.” Morris said he never lost touch or connection with players he advised on and off the field.

“He’s a guy that I know can help us in a pass rush,” Morris said, “and he’s a guy that I think deserves a second chance.”

McKinley said he had a “closer than close” relationship with Morris.

“I’m grateful that we’ve kept in touch all these years, not even just on a football level, just on a personal level,” McKinley said. “He helped me with things about being a father, just in life.

“So I am forever grateful to Coach Raheem.”

Blanton, 26, was a key player for the Rams during last season’s Super Bowl run. He caught seven passes for 75 yards and one touchdown in the playoffs before suffering a shoulder injury in the Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals — an opportunity that opened the door for Hopkins.

In August, when the roster was cut to 53 players, the Rams axed Blanton. The Washington Commanders demanded him from waivers but later released him. Blanton signed with the Chiefs.

“He obviously knows the offense,” Rams tight end Tyler Higbee said. “That way he can come here and be ready without having a huge learning curve. Excited to have him back.”

Brown, 29, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Rams in 2015 and has been a solid support for Todd Gurley and others for six seasons.

In 2020, Brown rushed for 419 yards and five touchdowns in 101 carries.

Prior to last season, he signed with the Miami Dolphins. Brown gained 125 yards and had a touchdown in 33 carries in seven games before suffering a quadriceps injury.

Brown is once again the senior in a running back position group that includes Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers.

“Malcolm is a pro,” said offensive coordinator Liam Coen. “Just do everything right, on and off the pitch. He will be a great example for a lot of our younger players.”

Veteran defenseman Aaron Donald is happy to have Brown back on the team.

“He’s just a guy who understands what we’re doing here,” Donald said. “Was here, knows the area. So it will be great to get him back in the mix.”

The Rams signed Jolly from the Cleveland Browns practice team. He intercepted six passes in four seasons in Appalachian State.

Etc.

Durant, Long and receiver Van Jefferson (knee) were not training, according to the Rams injury report. Safety Jordan Fuller (hamstring) was limited. … The Rams did without linebacker Kier Thomas and running back Trey Ragas.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-22/rams-injuries-new-rams-former-rams As injuries mount, meet the newest Rams … who used to be Rams

Emma Bowman

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