Micah Kiser, a projected starting inside linebacker for the Rams, suffered a left pectoral injury in Saturday’s preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys that will require surgery, a team spokesman said Sunday.
Kiser is scheduled for surgery Tuesday and there is no timeline for his return, the spokesman said. Kiser’s absence leaves a potential hole in a defense that was expected to improve with the additions of veteran safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews.
Kiser, a second-year pro, had an MRI exam upon the Rams’ return from Hawaii on Sunday. Before learning the results, coach Sean McVay conducted a teleconference with reporters.
“You’re always hoping for the best, No.1 for Micah, and also for our team because of how important he is to us,” McVay said.
Kiser is expected to be replaced by Bryce Hager, a seventh-round draft pick in 2015 who carved a niche on Rams special teams and developed into a valuable reserve.
Hager, 27, has played in every game since the Rams selected him out of Baylor. He started one game, the 2017 season finale against the San Francisco 49ers.
On Sunday, McVay referenced a 2017 game against the Arizona Cardinals, when Hager stepped in and played well after former linebacker Alec Ogletree suffered a first-quarter elbow injury.
“He’s definitely demonstrated that, when given the opportunity, he’s capitalized on his chances,” McVay said.
Travin Howard, a seventh-round draft pick last year, could back up Hager. The Rams also can use safeties such as Marqui Christian and rookie Taylor Rapp to play hybrid linebacker roles.
McVay has held most starters and key rotational players out of preseason games to avoid injuries that would prevent them from being ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against the Carolina Panthers. That has included second-year offensive linemen Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom, who have little game experience but impressed coaches during joint practices with the Chargers and Oakland Raiders.
Kiser and second-year nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day are projected starters who have played.
After Saturday’s game, McVay said the Rams were “hopeful” that Kiser’s injury was not serious.
“If you end up losing him, certainly I think you’d say, ‘Man, I wish I had handled that differently,’” McVay said. “But you’ve got to trust the decisions, and everything that we do is for a reason and what we think is in the best interest of the players — and sometimes these unfortunate things happen.
“If that is the case with him, we’ll put our arms around him, we’ll support him and he’ll come back stronger.”
Injuries in football are inevitable, McVay said, and the injury suffered by Kiser would not necessarily change the Rams’ approach in their last two preseason games.
“I don’t think you want to let one instance change it,” McVay said, “but if you feel like those guys that have carved out that role for themselves have gotten enough work in the preseason, then you say ‘Hey, let’s continue to just focus on the practice and be smart about that over the next couple weeks.’”
Kiser, a second-year pro, played mainly on special teams as a rookie but was on track to replace Mark Barron, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers when the Rams released him after last season.
Kiser said last week that he learned much from Barron, Hager, starting linebacker Cory Littleton, former Rams linebacker Ramik Wilson and linebackers coach Joe Barry.
“So now I feel like I’m playing pretty fast and I’m pretty confident in everything,” Kiser said.
Getting work in
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Marcus Peters were the only established starters other than specialists who traveled to Hawaii. Neither was in uniform against the Cowboys.
McVay said that Rams players who did not make the trip worked out on the field in Thousand Oaks for about 30 minutes Sunday.
The Rams are off Monday and will resume practice Tuesday.
“We’ll come back and really hit ‘em hard over the next three days,” McVay said, adding, “Them being able to stay back, stay rested but then also continue to get some work on their own is going to serve us really well to stay right on track for what we want do over these next couple weeks leading into Carolina.”
Rapp, defensive lineman Greg Gaines, linebackers Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Josh Carraway and Dakota Allen and quarterback Blake Bortles were among players who stood out during the 14-10 defeat by the Cowboys, McVay said. ... During the television broadcast of Saturday’s game, McVay regaled viewers with his analysis from the sideline. McVay said he would be open to doing more coach-cam hits during preseason broadcasts because he’s relaxed. But not during the regular season. “I think you guys would quickly realize, ‘We don’t want to do this coaching cam with this guy, he’s a maniac,’” he said.