Cornerback Trumaine Johnson is so valuable to the Rams that the organization put the franchise tag on him during the off-season to retain him.
But the Rams will be without Johnson for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions — and possibly longer — because of an ankle injury suffered in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Johnson left the Coliseum on Sunday on crutches and wearing a large plastic protective boot on his lower right leg. He was still wearing the boot Tuesday.
“He’s probably not going to go this week,” Coach Jeff Fisher said when asked about Johnson’s status. “He’ll probably be week to week.”
Johnson, 26, is earning nearly $14 million this season. He has one interception and forced another. He is tied for third in the NFL with 10 passes defended, according to NFL.com.
On Tuesday night, Johnson tweeted: “Count me out if you want to .. I’LL BE BACK!
Troy Hill is expected to start in Johnson’s place opposite E.J. Gaines.
Earlier in the day, the Rams claimed former Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz off waivers to bolster the secondary.
Johnson was injured the day after the Rams released cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who signed a three-year, $15-million contract with the Rams during the off-season.
The Rams promoted defensive lineman Morgan Fox to the roster for the Buffalo game to add depth to a defensive line that was without injured Robert Quinn, William Hayes and Michael Brockers. Fox was waived Tuesday and will return to the practice squad if he is not claimed.
This will be Hill’s second stint as a starter.
“I’ve just got to play the game and not try to make the big plays,” he said. “Just stay calm and just stay focused and stick to my technique and fundamentals and let it come to me.”
Hill, 5 feet 10 and 182 pounds, played at Oregon. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and also was with the New England Patriots before the Rams claimed him off waivers last December.
“He understands what we’re doing and he can really run and he’s got ball skills,” Fisher said. “Even though he’s a little slight, he’s a run-support guy.”
Hill is familiar with Detroit receiver Marvin Jones, the NFL’s leader with 519 yards receiving. Jones, who played at Rancho Cucamonga Etiwanda High and in college at California, signed with the Lions after three seasons with the Bengals.
“I was with him in Cincy last year so I got a little feel for him,” Hill said, adding, “He’s got a couple moves, so you’ve just got to stay focused.”
Gratz, a fourth-year pro from Connecticut, started eight games in 2013 and 10 in 2014. He has three career interceptions. Gratz was put on waivers Monday when cornerback Aaron Colvin returned from a suspension.
“I think he was a little caught off guard by the release,” Fisher said. “He’ll be here [Wednesday morning] and we’ll get him coached up as quick as we can to play special teams.
“He played predominantly inside for them the last year and a half, but has the skills to play outside.”
Gratz was inactive for the Jaguars’ Oct. 2 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in London. The Rams will travel from Detroit to London to play the New York Giants, who signed Sensabaugh.
“He’s familiar with London,” Fisher said of Gratz, adding, “so he’s going back.
“I didn’t have to ask him if he had a passport or not.”
Running back Benny Cunningham, sidelined against Buffalo because of a hamstring injury suffered against Arizona, should be available for Sunday’s game, Fisher said. Cunningham is the Rams’ top kickoff returner. He is averaging 32.3 yards per return, has rushed for 32 yards in four carries and has three receptions for 24 yards. With Cunningham out last week, running back Malcolm Brown backed up Todd Gurley. Brown gained two yards in two carries and turned a short pass into a 26-yard gain.