If he could, Trumaine Johnson would take it back.
Not the dynamic play the Rams cornerback made to break up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, but the verbal exchange that followed and resulted in a costly penalty in Sunday’s Rams loss at the Coliseum.
The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Johnson enabled the Eagles to continue a drive that led to a touchdown in a defeat that prevented the Rams from securing a two-game division lead going into Sunday’s NFC West showdown at Seattle.
Johnson said Thursday that he and Jeffery are friends, and that trash talking was part of the game. He said he and Jeffery were laughing, and that the game official erred in thinking he was taunting.
But Johnson regretted his actions.
“It was selfish act, especially on that crucial drive,” he said. “What I take from it: Celebrate my teammates. It’s not just all about me. If I could take it back, I’d take it back.”
The defeat dropped the Rams’ record to 9-4, a game ahead of the Seahawks, whose loss at Jacksonville left them at 8-5.
lost toto fall
Sunday’s game at CenturyLink Field will go a long way toward deciding the division title and playoff seeding.
Johnson left in the fourth quarter against the Eagles with what was initially announced as concussion protocol, but coach Sean McVay said this week that it was because of a “stinger,” a neck and shoulder issue.
“I’m good, I’m 100%,” Johnson said. “This is Seattle. Second time playing them. It’s for the division.”
The pressure on the Rams might not be so great if Johnson had avoided the penalty against the Eagles.
The Rams made several costly mistakes — quarterback Jared Goff, for example, lost a fourth-quarter fumble — but Johnson’s miscue following a third-down stop occurred after a whistle.
“We can’t have penalties after the play,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said, adding that the point swing “might’ve been the difference in the ball game.”
Johnson said that he and Jeffery were “friends on the field, enemies between the white lines,” and that they were “just competing” and talking the whole game.
“If you can see the play, me and him was laughing at each other,” Johnson said. “I knocked down the ball, and the ref took it the wrong way. Said I was in his face and I was taunting him.
“I’m like, ‘I’m just playing ball.’”
Johnson was not doing anything other than “talking to the guy,” Phillips said, but players should not leave anything open to interpretation by officials.
“You just can’t do that during the game,” Phillips said. “You just got to celebrate on your own and don’t worry about talking to the other guy.
“We learned a tough lesson there, because, like I said, it could’ve cost us the ball game and our players know that now.”
Johnson is part of a Rams secondary that once again must adapt to the absence of cornerback Kayvon Webster, who suffered a ruptured Achilles against the Eagles.
Cornerbacks Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill and Kevin Peterson are expected to fill the void. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson and Blake Countess also will figure in the coverage equation against mobile and multitalented Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his receivers.
Hill played against the Eagles after Webster suffered the season-ending injury.
“We have a lot of confidence in Troy,” McVay said, “and I thought he did a great job last week, especially against such a good offense like Philadelphia.”
Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (knee) did not practice. “We trust that he kind of knows his body pretty well,” McVay said, “so been able to defer to him and he feels like he’s going to be good to go.”… Offensive lineman Rob Havenstein (knee) was limited. Receiver Robert Woods (shoulder) and linebacker Connor Barwin (forearm) were full participants. … Among Seahawks players who did not practice: Linebackers Bobby Wagner (hamstring) and K.J. Wright (concussion), defensive lineman Michael Bennett (knee) and safety Earl Thomas (heel). ... With rain a possibility in Seattle, McVay said the Rams spent time practicing with a wet ball. “Just being able to handle it and be ready for the elements,” he said. ... Rams punter Johnny Hekker co-designed a T-shirt to help raise funds for Southern California wildfire relief efforts. The shirt is emblazoned with “Together LA United” on the front and “LA Fire Relief” on the back. Proceeds benefit United Way’s Southern California Wildfire Relief Fund. Information: https://athletesbrand.com/products/together-la-united-by-johnny-hekker.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein