Rams already are in playoff mode despite earning a first-round bye


The Rams earned a bye through the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs, but they won’t be taking the week off.

Players were on site Monday at the team’s Thousand Oaks training facility and they will go through light workouts Wednesday and Thursday before reconvening Sunday to begin preparations for their Jan. 12 divisional-round game at the Coliseum.

The Rams, seeded second in the NFC behind the New Orleans Saints, will play the highest-seeded team remaining after wild-card games.


The fourth-seeded Dallas Cowboys play host to the fifth-seeded Seattle Seahawks and the third-seeded Chicago Bears play host to the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles this weekend.

The Rams will “get ourselves healthy” and focus on fundamentals and techniques this week, coach Sean McVay said during a teleconference.

The Rams’ late-season scheduled week off, which came after 11 games, was a true break, left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. This is more of a “preparation week,” he said.

“To just fine tune and really get ourselves clicking on all cylinders for the final stretch,” he said.

Whitworth left the game Sunday, a 48-32 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, because of a bruised knee. He said he collided with another player’s leg but felt fine.

“It’s nothing,” he said. “I mean we could’ve played. It was more precautionary.”

Said McVay: “Thank God it wasn’t anything worse than that. We’ll get our guy back, ready to roll for the playoffs.”

Whitworth is one of several players that can use the week to heal. Safety Blake Countess is in concussion protocol but was asymptomatic Monday, McVay said.

Running back Todd Gurley sat out the last two games because of knee soreness, and safety Lamarcus Joyner was sidelined Sunday because of an ankle injury suffered the previous week against the Arizona Cardinals.

Gurley was making “good progress,” McVay said, but remains day to day.

“I would be very, very surprised if he wasn’t going to be ready to go for the playoffs,” McVay said, “but I think we’re going to be smart with whether he goes or not this week with those extra days.


“We’ll still continue to have that same rehab program. He’s taking steps in the right direction and I would be very surprised if he’s not feeling good, ready to roll for our divisional game.”

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who finished the season with a league-best 20½ sacks, said he would use the week to improve.

“Just trying to stay fresh, keep working, try to find a way to get better,” he said.

Coaching search

The Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals were granted permission to interview Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor about their vacant head coach position, and the Bengals also were given permission to interview passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, McVay said.

The Cardinals, Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are searching for head coaches.

“These days are just gut-wrenching as a coach,” McVay said of Monday’s firings. “It makes you sick and you hate to see it and it’s an unfortunate part of this business.”

McVay said Rams assistants would be available for teams to interview in the Los Angeles area Friday and Saturday.


“You want to do everything that you can to kind of help these guys anticipate some of the things that might come up in these interviews,” McVay said. “You’d hate to lose them, but man, I’d sure be so happy for them if that was an opportunity that they decided to pursue and it worked out for them and their families.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job with us and I feel lucky to work with guys like that.”

Next season’s opponents

The Rams’ opponents for the 2019 season are set. The NFC West is matched with the AFC North and NFC South.

Home games will be against the Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Bears, Bengals, Saints, Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens.

Away games will be against the Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks, Cowboys, Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons.

The Rams will play again at the Coliseum as a temporary home stadium, so one “home” game will be an international series game in London or Mexico City.


Dates and times for all games will be announced in the spring.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein