None of the Rams’ star players and almost none of the starters on offense and defense played a preseason snap last summer.
That decision by coach Sean McVay did not prevent running back Todd Gurley from performing well in the season opener against the Oakland Raiders. He rushed for more than 100 yards and was off to another outstanding season.
Now, with Gurley’s left knee possibly a week-to-week issue, there is a scenario in which Gurley could start in a postseason game after not playing for three weeks.
A day after his team defeated the Arizona Cardinals with Gurley watching from the sidelines, McVay said Monday that the Rams would continue “taking it day to day” with their $60-million running back as they prepare for the season finale Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
“We don’t want to do anything where we’re putting him in harm’s way, if we feel like this could be something where we’re putting him at risk,” McVay said during a teleconference. “But if he’s getting back, if he’s feeling good, then the anticipation is getting him ready to go.”
With C.J. Anderson filling in for Gurley — and rushing for 167 yards and a touchdown — the Rams improved to 12-3 with the 31-9 victory over the Cardinals.
If they defeat the 49ers at the Coliseum, they will clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, earning a bye through the wild-card round.
If Gurley sits out Sunday and the Rams win, the NFL touchdowns leader would not play until a Jan. 12 or 13 divisional-round game at the Coliseum.
The Rams would not be uncomfortable if that situation arises, McVay said. He pointed to the way Gurley and other starters performed in the 33-13 victory at Oakland without the benefit of preseason action.
“You’d obviously like to be able to get these guys as much work as possible, but most importantly is the health,” McVay said, adding, “Would it be ideal? No. But is it something that you’re going to be concerned with? No.
“I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in Todd. If he’s ready to go … he’ll be sharp whenever that is.”
Anderson, who had 20 carries against the Cardinals, would get another start if Gurley is held out.
Anderson said after the game that his performance was “nothing different” from what he showed many times during five seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib, a Broncos teammate for four seasons, agreed.
“It’s nothing new to me either,” Talib said. “It’s what he does. He grinds, man.”
But nothing will change in the Rams’ approach with Gurley, McVay said.
“If we can get him ready to go, then that’s what we’ll do,” he said, “and if not, then we’ll just kind of play that by ear.”
Running back Justin Davis was active against the Cardinals, but he did not play because he is nursing a shoulder injury. That gave rookie John Kelly an opportunity to back up Anderson.
Kelly rushed for 40 yards in 10 carries. He also played on special teams.
“It was good to get out there and get a few more touches,” Kelly said. “Not only that but just get out there and feel the flow of the game.”
Kelly did not touch the ball on one of his best plays.
In the fourth quarter, he sold a fake handoff and then blocked Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick, enabling quarterback Jared Goff to roll out and toss a touchdown pass to Robert Woods.
“It was a great step in the right direction for John Kelly,” McVay said.