Sean McVay reflected on many insecurities about himself and his team before deciding to return to his seventh season as Rams coach.
But quarterback Matthew Stafford’s physical condition was apparently not one of them.
McVay said Tuesday there would be “no restrictions” for Stafford when the Rams begin off-season training on April 17.
Stafford, a 15-year pro, was playing through a right elbow tendinitis and coming back from a concussion before suffering a season-ending spinal bruise that kept him out for the final seven games of the awkward 5-12 Season of the Rams paused.
“It’s been a long time since he got through an offseason that he was able to throw healthy,” McVay said at NFL owner meetings. “I was with him the other morning when he was working there early and was able to do the things that are consistent with preparing for the season.”
Stafford, 35, star receiver Cooper Kupp and star defense lineman Aaron Donald will be the pillars for a team not on track to be bolstered by high-profile off-season additions.
Kupp, 29, is coming off season-ending ankle surgery. Donald, 31, was sidelined from his last six games last season with an ankle injury.
The Rams, who usually make headlines, are in a major economic pullback as they head into 2024 and the draft build.
So they’re counting on Stafford to take them to the playoffs.
In 2021, the Rams sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Stafford paid off by playing during the regular 41 touchdowns in the season and led the Rams to a Super Bowl LVI win at SoFi Stadium.
But last spring, Stafford didn’t throw any passes during off-season practice and was restricted during training camp so as not to aggravate tendinitis in his right elbow. Stafford’s limited attendance hampered his ability to form a relationship with new receiver Allen Robinson, among others.
Stafford passed just 10 touchdowns in 2022 before his season ended after a sack against the New Orleans Saints.
“Last year there was such a unique combination … of things that prevented him from playing the way he can,” McVay said. “I think there are a lot of guys on our team who will have a new sense of urgency and appreciation for just getting out there and competing.”
Robinson could be one of those players, despite being in a kind of limbo. According to overthecap.com, the Rams are looking to trade the player with a $10 million guaranteed salary and $18 million salary cap.
Last season, Robinson caught just 33 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
“Allen is a great person, he’s been a great player for a long time,” McVay said when asked how he would handle the situation with Robinson on the list at the start of the offseason workouts. “And so you talk to him and you say, ‘That’s a possibility we’re looking into where we could move you. But if we don’t, I want you to know that I will put everything I have into you as a player to try to help you reach your highest potential and make sure it’s an enjoyable one Experience is where you enjoy coming to work. ‘
“And that’s where we left it. And so I don’t think it’s uncomfortable, because those are the realities of the situation. And when he’s here, stay tuned. And if not, wish him all the best for his next stop.”
The Rams remain interested in signing free-agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who played for the Rams in the second half of the 2021 season. Beckham suffered a knee injury in the Super Bowl win and did not play last season.
“I love Odell,” McVay said. “There are certain parameters that limit our options. But when we are presented with this situation, I know that we would be a better football team if we could do that.”
The Rams have 11 picks in the draft, but none in the first round.
McVay recalled 2017, his first season, when the Rams selected players like Kupp, tight end Gerald Everett, receiver Josh Reynolds, safety John Johnson and linebacker Samson Ebukam.
“There were a lot of people from that draft that became fundamental parts of what we did going forward,” he said. “And then you meet the guys that you add and acquire.
“So the most important thing for us will be that we get those points right. We have to be able to have a vision for the players we bring on board and then we want to see how quickly they can develop.”
With Stafford the only quarterback on the list, “we have to be able to address in some shape or form” who the replacement will be, McVay said.
The Rams could draft a quarterback, sign a veteran, or do both for the first time since Goff’s selection in 2016.
“You definitely know that’s going to be part of what we need to do going forward,” he said. “Whether that’s someone with experience or not, we’ll see.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2023-03-28/rams-coach-sean-mcvay-healthy-matthew-stafford Rams counting on healthy Matthew Stafford to offset losses