Speculation surrounding Todd Gurley’s left knee issue dominated the offseason, continued through training camp and remained a topic of discussion through the Rams’ first five games.
Now, add Gurley’s left thigh to the mix.
The Rams’ star running back did not practice Wednesday because of a thigh bruise apparently suffered during the Rams’ 30-29 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Thursday. Players had a few days off before returning to work Monday and then had Tuesday off.
“It kind of caught us all off guard,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Gurley’s injury.
Gurley rushed for 51 yards and two touchdowns in 15 carries in the loss to the Seahawks (4-1). The Rams are 3-2 and 0-1 in the NFC West heading into Sunday’s division game against the 4-0 San Francisco 49ers at the Coliseum.
Gurley is not the only starter with a lingering injury from the loss to the Seahawks. Cornerback Aqib Talib did not practice Wednesday because of a rib injury.
“You think it’s your typical bumps and bruises, and then it ends up being a little bit more than that,” McVay said of both conditions.
Could Gurley and Talib be held out against the 49ers?
“It’s hard to say. Just being Wednesday, we’ve still got some time,” McVay said. “The big thing was that they missed practice … and we’ll take it a day at a time.”
Gurley is scheduled to speak with reporters Thursday during his weekly news conference.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2017 NFL offensive player of the year signed an extension before the 2018 season that guaranteed $45 million. Gurley subsequently led the league with 21 touchdowns but sat out the final two regular-season games because of soreness in his left knee, which underwent reconstructive surgery in 2014 when he played at Georgia.
Gurley played well in the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, but struggled in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints and in the Rams’ Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
The Rams held Gurley out of offseason workouts and preseason games, and McVay has limited his touches through the first five games. Gurley has rushed for 270 yards and five touchdowns, and averages 4.2 yards per carry. He also has 14 receptions for 68 yards.
Asked if he would be extra cautious about playing Gurley on Sunday, McVay said the Rams would take it “one day at a time” with the star running back.
“A lot of those conversations entail, ‘All right, how’s he feeling? What kind of progress does he make throughout the course of the week,’ ” McVay said. “But fortunately for us, we’ve got some depth at that position.”
Malcolm Brown has rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and averages 4.4 yards per carry, but his role has not been as large since the opener, when he rushed for 53 yard and two touchdowns in 11 carries. Rookie Darrell Henderson, a third-round draft pick, carried the ball once for no gain against the Panthers but has not played on offense since.
McVay said the Rams have confidence in Brown, and he reiterated that Henderson also could get more opportunities.
“It might end up being this week,” McVay said.
Despite McVay’s comments, Gurley’s toughness and history suggests that he will play against the 49ers.
“He plays through so many different things, he’d be better in tune to be able to say exactly how he feels,” McVay said, “but there’s still so much time.”
The Rams have relied on their passing game more than their rushing attack this season. If Gurley is unable to play, that trend could continue.
Before Gurley appeared on the injury report Wednesday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the Rams’ rushing attack remained formidable.
“We all know how good their running game is, how good their O-line is and how good their backs are,” Shanahan said during a teleconference. “Even though they haven’t done the numbers in this first half of the season like they have in the last two years, that isn’t something that’s going to go away.
“They can do it at any time and you’ve just got to be ready for it.”
Talib nursed a hamstring injury through preseason practices, but has played in every game for a defense that faltered in losses against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seahawks.
Slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman or Troy Hill could start if Talib’s injury keeps him out of the lineup against the 49ers.
Linebacker Bryce Hager (shoulder), safety Taylor Rapp (ankle) and receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion) were limited, but are on track to play against the 49ers, McVay said. ... Shanahan said that offensive right tackle Mike McGlinchey will be sidelined because of a knee injury.