Rams can’t stop talking about bringing back Odell Beckham Jr.

Aside from a couple of backpacks stored on the padded blue bench seat, the locker sits respectfully unused.

The identification plate under the space for a helmet: ODELL BECKHAM JR.

The Rams haven’t reassigned the locker in a bit of wishful thinking — not while Beckham, superstar receiver and current free agent, remains in the market while working his way back from knee surgery.

“It makes you smile every day when you walk in and see it,” offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said of the locker directly across from his. “It makes me think of my husband. Miss him. Love him.

“I hope he’s back.”

Last November, a few days before they played Monday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, the Rams signed Beckham to a one-year, incentive-packed deal.

Coach Sean McVay wasted no time putting the three-time Pro Bowl player on offense: quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Beckham on the first play.

The Rams lost that game, but Beckham caught five touchdown passes in eight games. In the 23-20 Super Bowl LVI win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Beckham caught a touchdown pass and had a 35-yard reception before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament.

The Rams (2-1) return to Levi’s Stadium on Monday night to play the 49ers (1-2).

Beckham, who turns 30 in November, is unlikely to be ready to play for any team until late October or November at the earliest. And the Rams will almost certainly be challenged for his services by other suitors, especially playoff contenders.

The Rams' Odell Beckham Jr. (3) collects a touchdown pass despite being covered by the Bengals' Mike Hilton in Super Bowl LVI.

Before his knee injury during Super Bowl LVI, Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) collected a touchdown pass despite coverage by Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

But Beckham never seems far from the Rams’ thoughts.

Last week, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey was the latest to drop a not-so-subliminal clue.

Covering the Rams’ road win over the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, Ramsey first opened up about the performances of defensive lineman Aaron Donald and former Rams edge rusher Von Miller.

“Odell made a great game, right,” added Ramsey.

Then he paused for a moment.

“Odell,” he said, “come back.”

Beckham responded on Twitter with emojis of faces with tears of joy. “Forever my brother!” Beckham wrote. “Tell them they want a lot.”

Ramsey’s comments continued a string of Rams coaches and players that began in the offseason.

In March, general manager Les Snead said the Rams “definitely” wanted Beckham back and were trying to “make him a Ram sooner or later.” Coach Sean McVay has said on podcasts and broadcasts he wants Beckham — who crashed McVay’s June 4 wedding — to return.

During training camp, McVay told NFL Network he was confident the Rams would “get Odell back eventually.”

“If you’re out there, Odell,” McVay added. “I know you heard that.”

Later, while assessing young recipients on the list, McVay told reporters, “So we’re going to look at these guys and then see if we can figure out when Odell is going to come back eventually, too.”

Stafford also weighed in when asked about Rams recipients.

“I’m not closing the book on Odell or anyone,” he said.

During the Rams’ season opener against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium, Beckham was on the field to attend a pregame ceremony with a youth football team.

However, he has not publicly revealed where he intends to end up after fully recovering from knee surgery.

The Rams, who haven’t performed consistently well on offense in three games, could use Beckham.

Van Jefferson, the Rams’ most effective deep threat last season, has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery during training camp.

Cooper Kupp, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, has 28 catches and four touchdowns. New signing Allen Robinson has seven catches, one for a touchdown.

Sophomore Ben Skowronek caught four passes for the team’s best 66 yards against the Cardinals but has been playing mostly at fullback lately. Brandon Powell has five receptions.

Tutu Atwell, a sophomore pro, has no catch and has yet to develop into the threat McVay envisioned when the Rams used a 2021 second-round pick to pick him.

Meanwhile, Beckham’s locker serves as a daily reminder of what was and what could be again.

Offensive lineman Bobby Evans’ locker flanks him on the left, with cornerback Troy Hill on the right. The players stow their backpacks there for the time being.

“He’s a good guy,” Evans said of Beckham. “Just hilarious as a team guy. Obviously he has this outgoing personality.”

Hill played six seasons for the Rams before signing with the Cleveland Browns before last season – and becoming Beckham’s teammate. He was traded back to the Rams during the NFL draft.

“It’s just hope,” Hill said of Beckham’s locker. “He’s a good player – you’d love to have a player like that next to you.”

Or somewhere in the dressing room, said safety Nick Scott.

“We’re just keeping it out of respect,” Scott said of Beckham’s space. “Hopefully we can get him back.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-09-28/rams-want-odell-beckham-jr-back Rams can’t stop talking about bringing back Odell Beckham Jr.

Emma Bowman

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