John Wolford ‘confident’ heading into Rams debut; Cooper Kupp likely out

Rams quarterback John Wolford signals during a preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
Rams quarterback John Wolford signals during a preseason game against the Denver Broncos in 2019. Wolford will make his NFL regular-season debut for the Rams against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

On a day Rams coaches and teammates expressed confidence in John Wolford, the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals did the same.

Wolford will lead the Rams — and take his first NFL regular-season snaps — in place of injured Jared Goff at SoFi Stadium. A playoff berth could rest on the outcome.

“I’m confident in my capabilities as a player,” Wolford said Wednesday during a videoconference with reporters, adding, “I know I can make the throws and then, mentally, it’s about making the right decisions and giving us the best chance to win.


“So I’m confident going into this week, and I’m glad the team’s rallying around me, and it will be fun.”

It also could be challenging for Wolford and the Rams on several levels.

The Rams announce Tuesday that leading receiver Cooper Kupp has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Dec. 29, 2020

Wolford’s inexperience might be magnified because of the absence of key players on offense, most notably receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp, who has a team best 92 catches, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, and coach Sean McVay indicated Wednesday that Kupp will not play against the Cardinals.

NFL protocols prohibit teams from revealing if a player was put on the list because of a positive test or because of a close contact. Some teams such as the Rams also put players on the list for precautionary reasons as they continue to test.

Asked if the Rams had any positive tests Wednesday, McVay said, “I’m not able to say that kind of stuff.”

Even if an unnamed player tested positive?

“I cannot say that,” he said. “Hey, you’ll find out [Thursday].”

According to the Rams injury report, defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers did not participate Wednesday because of “non-injury related” reasons. Wednesday is typically a veteran’s day off for Donald. Brockers is typically off Fridays.

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp runs after making a catch against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 6.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

While McVay dealt with game-planning around injuries and COVID-related issues, Wolford and his teammates remained focused on preparation.

“He’s as disciplined a guy that I’ve been around in terms of having that rhythm, that process, that routine that’s in alignment with getting yourself ready to go,” McVay said of Wolford.

With Kupp probably sidelined against the Cardinals, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson will be the starting receivers. McVay also could increase the roles of tight ends Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett and Johnny Mundt. With running backs Darrell Henderson out and Cam Akers doubtful because of ankle injuries, veteran Malcolm Brown will start at running back.

“What we feel good about is the ability for those guys to have prepared for their opportunity and potentially be ready to roll and get some more chances this weekend,” McVay said.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he anticipated multiple ways McVay might make up for Kupp’s absence.


“Kupp is one of the best in the game,” Kingsbury said during a conference call with Los Angeles reporters, adding, “It’s hard to replace a guy like that but . . . with Sean, he’s going to fill the void in different ways, with different play calls. . . . He’ll have a great plan.”

With Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers nursing injuries, Malcolm Brown will be the Rams’ lone experienced running back in a must-win game against Arizona.

Dec. 29, 2020

Woods noted that the Rams have stepped up before in Kupp’s absence. In 2018, for example, Kupp suffered a season-ending knee injury but the Rams advanced to the Super Bowl.

“This one’s a little different because it’s COVID, it’s weird,” Woods said. “But we’ve got guys to step in and make plays and get this win.”

Woods said Wolford would be ready.

“This Sunday, we’re asking John to just be himself,” Woods said. “Play confident, bring that swag and let’s get this win.”


McVay said he decided to have a walkthrough instead of a practice because that is consistent with what the Rams have done midweek late in the season. He said there were opportunities to work on timing. “It’s not like John [Wolford] or some of these other guys that are being asked to step up have not been getting physical reps throughout the course of the season,” he said…. Linebacker Micah Kiser was activated off injured reserve but is not expected to be ready to play Sunday, McVay said. Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (knee) participated in the walkthrough, McVay said, starting the 21-day window that he can be evaluated for a possible return from a knee injury.