Van Jefferson’s absence from Rams practice could be an issue

The Rams entered training camp with Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and Van Jefferson designated as starting receivers.

That could still be the lineup when the defending Super Bowl champion opens the season Sept. 8 at SoFi Stadium against the Buffalo Bills.

But the immediate status of Jefferson, a third-year player coming back from offseason knee surgery, took a potentially ominous turn on Saturday.

Jefferson did not attend training at UC Irvine. When asked for an update on Jefferson afterwards, Rams coach Sean McVay gave no details.

“We’re just figuring that out and working through it,” McVay said. He then declined to share anything more.

Asked if Jefferson’s absence was related to his surgically repaired kneeMcVay again declined to elaborate.

‘I’ll have more information for you later – like I said, I don’t have anything at the moment,’ he said.

Playing through a knee condition last season, Jefferson caught 50 passes, six for touchdowns. He averaged 16 yards per catch.

Jefferson caught four passes in the Rams’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

Best-case scenario, Jefferson would return to practice on Sunday and be ready for the opener.

But his absence and McVay’s unwillingness to talk about it immediately raised questions about the Rams’ receiver depth.

Kupp has had a historic season. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year led the league in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches. A one-handed catch he made Saturday again showed he’s poised for another productive season with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Robinson, an eight-year veteran, signed as a free agent. And during the first week of training camp, the former Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears standout displayed the skills that helped him endure three 1,000-yard seasons. On Saturday, Robinson’s dive catch in the back of the end zone qualified as the game of the day.

“He went up and did it, great dive catch, strong hands,” said Stafford. “That’s what he’s about. This is what will help us put points on the board by making plays like this within the 20 yard line.

Without Jefferson, sophomores Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell would be next on a depth chart that also includes converted tight end Jacob Harris and kick returner Brandon Powell.

Skowronek, a seventh-round draft pick, caught 11 passes last season. Atwell, a second-round pick, didn’t catch a pass. He played as a kick returner in eight games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Harris played on special teams in nine games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

Odell Beckham Jr., who is recovering from knee surgery after suffering an injury in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI win, remains a free agent.

Last season, the Rams signed Beckham after the trade deadline and added him to a receiving corps that included Kupp, Jefferson and Robert Woods. The day after Beckham’s signature, Woods suffered a season-ending knee injury in a non-contact play during practice.

Beckham stepped in and helped the Rams get their Super Bowl going. The Rams have stayed in touch with Beckham — he attended their Super Bowl ring ceremony the night before training camp — but the three-time Pro Bowl player is unlikely to be ready to play until midseason.

After selling Woods to the Tennessee Titans and then signing Robinson, McVay looked forward to unleashing a passing attack featuring Kupp, Robinson, Jefferson, tight end Tyler Higbee and running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson.

Jefferson did not participate in drills during organized team activities in the spring. But he seemed fit during the first exercises at the training camp.

Upon arriving at camp, Jefferson said the Rams had the parts for a more explosive offensive.

“It’s definitely suitable for that,” he said. “I think if we just go through the training camp and the season we will perfect it.” Van Jefferson’s absence from Rams practice could be an issue

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