Rams release Pharoh Cooper, sign running back C.J. Anderson; Gurley, Goff, Donald and Littleton make Pro Bowl
A few hours before the NFL announced that four Rams players were voted to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, the team cut 2017 Pro Bowl kick returner Pharoh Cooper and then signed running back C.J. Anderson.
The Rams made the moves to augment a running back corps thinned by injuries, including star Todd Gurley’s left knee inflammation that could sideline him for Sunday’s game at Arizona.
Gurley, quarterback Jared Goff, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and linebacker/special teams standout Cory Littleton made the Pro Bowl, the annual NFL all-star exhibition that will be played Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla. Fans, players and coaches vote for the Pro Bowl.
Offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Rodger Saffold are first alternates. Other alternates: punter Johnny Hekker (second); cornerback Marcus Peters (third) and receiver Robert Woods (fifth).
Pro Bowl players, of course, would like nothing more than to be unavailable for the event. Players from teams that reach the Super Bowl — held Feb. 3 in Atlanta — do not participate in the Pro Bowl.
The NFC West-champion Rams are 11-3 and will be in the playoffs for the second consecutive season. They are currently in the midst of a two-game losing streak, their first in the regular season under coach Sean McVay.
The Rams’ running back depth took a hit several weeks ago when Malcolm Brown, who doubled as Gurley’s primary backup and filled important roles on special teams, suffered a season-ending clavicle injury. Second-year pro Justin Davis suffered a shoulder injury during the Rams’ 30-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and his status, like Gurley’s, is uncertain for Sunday’s game.
Before Tuesday’s signing of Anderson, rookie John Kelly was the only other running back on the Rams’ roster.
Gurley played through the game against the Eagles despite discomfort in his knee, which was surgically repaired in 2014 after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament while playing in college at Georgia.
McVay said Monday that Gurley and Davis would be evaluated day to day.
Anderson, 27, played five seasons for the Denver Broncos. He participated in the Pro Bowl in 2014, but his best season was in 2017, when he rushed for 1,007 yards and three touchdowns and caught 28 passes, one for a touchdown.
The 5-foot-8, 225-pound Anderson began this season with the Carolina Panthers. He gained 104 yards in 24 carries but was waived Nov. 12. He spent time on the Oakland Raiders’ roster before he was waived Dec. 11.
Cooper, 23, suffered an ankle injury during the season opener at Oakland and underwent surgery. He returned in Week 13 at Detroit, but had not displayed the form that helped him average 27.4 yards per kickoff return last season.
During Cooper’s absence, he was replaced by Blake Countess on kickoff returns and by JoJo Natson on punt returns. Natson continued to return punts after Cooper was activated, but he did have a crucial fumble late against the Eagles.
Cooper was deemed expendable as the Rams worked to find security in the wake of Gurley’s uncertain status.
Gurley has rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns, and he has 59 receptions for 580 yards and four touchdowns. He also was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2017.
Goff, in the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive season, has passed for 4,273 yards and 27 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. But Goff has struggled in the last three games, passing for only one touchdown with seven interceptions.
Donald has made the Pro Bowl in each of his five seasons. He leads the NFL with 16½ sacks.
Littleton, an undrafted free agent in 2016, made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He has blocked several punts and also leads the team in tackles as the starting middle linebacker.
The Rams were off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday. … The Cardinals (3-11) are coming off a 40-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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