Darrell Henderson’s hamstring injury could alter Rams’ running game plans

Rams running back Darrell Henderson takes a handoff during practice.
Rams running back Darrell Henderson, shown here in practice on Aug. 18, is dealing with a hamstring injury he sustained in Saturday’s practice at SoFi Stadium.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams prepare for their Sept. 13 opener against the Dallas Cowboys, plans for a three-man running back combination might go awry.

On Sunday, coach Sean McVay said Darrell Henderson suffered a “mild” hamstring injury during Saturday’s practice at SoFi Stadium.

“We’ll be hopeful that he’ll end up being able to get back and it won’t affect his availability for the Dallas game,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters.


The Rams released star running back Todd Gurley in March and aimed to replace the three-time Pro Bowl player with veteran backup Malcolm Brown, Henderson, a third-round draft pick last year, and rookie Cam Akers.

The Rams’ first workout at the $5-billion SoFi Stadium left them in awe, but fans likely won’t get to experience it in person anytime soon.

Aug. 22, 2020

Because of Brown’s experience and trust from coaches, the sixth-year pro is regarded as the frontrunner to start against the Cowboys. But the Rams drafted Akers in the second round with an eye toward him becoming the dominant back. And with Brown in the final year of his contract, Henderson could play a major role this season and beyond.

Henderson got limited opportunities as a rookie and suffered an ankle injury in the second-to-last game of the season against the San Francisco 49ers. The injury required surgery.

Henderson appeared to be back at full speed during practices last week. He was in for a few plays Saturday before he suffered another setback.

Hamstring injuries are notorious for unpredictable recovery times.

“Interesting injuries that you kind of just take a little bit at a time,” McVay said. “It’s unfortunate because he’s had a really good camp to this point.”


Rams cornerbck Jalen Ramsey likes what he sees in fellow Florida State alum, rookie running back Cam Akers.

Aug. 19, 2020

Henderson’s absence will create more opportunities for Brown, Akers, third-year pro John Kelly and Xavier Jones, an undrafted rookie who played at Southern Methodist.

Henderson is not the only potential key contributor sidelined by injury.

Safety Taylor Rapp, a projected starter, is nursing a knee injury that prevented him from practicing when the Rams began full-speed workouts last week.

Rapp started 10 games as a rookie last season after John Johnson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Eric Weddle’s retirement opened the door for Rapp to start this season alongside Johnson.

McVay said he was hopeful that Rapp would return by next week, which would give him only a few weeks to prepare for the Cowboys in new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s scheme.

“We would love to have him out there right now, but I don’t think anything’s going to be threatened for this Dallas game,” McVay said.

Rookies Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller have practiced well in Rapp’s place. Second-year pro Nick Scott also has made plays.



McVay said his decision to cancel practice Sunday was not related to issues surrounding suspected false positive tests for COVID-19 from a laboratory in New Jersey, which caused a number of NFL teams to cancel or delay workouts during the weekend. McVay said he canceled the workout because the Rams ran more plays than expected Saturday and he wanted players to have extended film study and recovery time. “We got a lot more work than even I had hoped for, which is a good thing,” he said. The Rams are off Monday. ... Receiver Cooper Kupp concurred with McVay regarding the piped-in crowd noise during Saturday’s workout. “Extremely irritating,” he said. ... McVay opened his videoconference by expressing his admiration for the late Kobe Bryant, whose birthday was Sunday. McVay said competitive periods for the Rams are referred to as “Mamba periods.”