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Michael Brockers is second Rams starter put on COVID-19 list this week

Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers, left, celebrates his sack of Patriots quarterback Cam Newton with Aaron Donald.
Rams defensive lineman Michael Brockers was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For 16 weeks, the Rams dodged many of the COVID-19 related issues experienced by many other NFL teams, especially the loss of starters.

But no longer.

On Thursday, defensive lineman Michael Brockers was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, joining receiver Cooper Kupp, who was placed on the list Tuesday.

“Certainly, you feel like it’s gotten us pretty good right now,” coach Sean McVay said Thursday after practice.

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The Rams are expected to be without Brockers and Kupp on Sunday when they play the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium in a season finale that could determine their playoff fate.

The Rams (9-6) can clinch a playoff spot with a victory or if the Chicago Bears lose to the Green Bay Packers.

John Wolford heads into his first NFL game on Sunday looking to push the Rams into the postseason and prove that sports dreams can come true.

Brockers is the third starter to be lost since Monday, when quarterback Jared Goff had surgery to repair a broken right thumb. Untested John Wolford will start in place of Goff.

Wolford has never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game. After a walk-through Wednesday, Wolford got his first opportunity to take first-team reps Thursday during a full practice.

“He did a really nice job — he had great command,” McVay said. “It was a step in the right direction.”

Rookie Van Jefferson — who has 15 catches, one for a touchdown — is expected to start in place of Kupp. Morgan Fox, who has five sacks, could start in place of Brockers.

Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald said Brockers and Kupp were “leaders and playmakers,” but the Rams would “hold it down” for them. Donald has played alongside Brockers his entire seven-year career. Fox has been with the Rams since 2016.

 Rams defensive end Morgan Fox (97) looks on from the sideline during the fourth quarter.
Defensive end Morgan Fox (97) could be the Rams’ starter Sunday in place of Michael Brockers, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
(Corey Perrine / Associated Press)

“He’s getting his opportunities, he’s going out there and playing at a high level,” Donald said of Fox. “It starts with this offseason. I know he worked his butt off with a lot of training, a lot of work on his technique and it’s showing.”
Donald also expressed confidence in Wolford. For the last two seasons, Wolford has run the scout team against the first-team defense.

Until this week.

“The routines he goes through every single day, you would think he was a starting quarterback already,” Donald said. “During the bye week, when I’m walking to my car about to leave, he’s walking out holding a shoulder pad, holding [a] football spinning on his hand saying, ‘All right A.D., see you later.’

“He’s getting his opportunity to step up and play a huge role in helping us win the game. ... There’s no doubt in my mind this guy is going to go out and play at a high level.”

Rick Neuheisel coached John Wolford in the Alliance of American Football and swears the backup quarterback will come through for the Rams in season finale against Arizona.

But with Brockers and Kupp sidelined, McVay and Donald lamented the inability to control situations that arise because of the pandemic.

“There’s been a lot of different things that we’ve had to navigate through but that’s consistent with the other 31 teams as well,” McVay said. “I just think that’s a part of what this year entails.”

A year like no other.

“You want everything to be normal but it’s not, that’s the reality of it, that’s just how 2020’s been to us,” Donald said. “So you just try to, I guess you got to try and adapt to the changes and hopefully in the near future this thing will be over with to the point where everything will be back to normal and we don’t have to worry about wearing a mask and things like that.

“So it’s just been a tough year for us overall, as far as you know with this COVID and things like that.”

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.

Etc.

Running back Malcolm Brown (shoulder), who will start Sunday, was limited, according to the injury report. Running back Cam Akers (ankle) did not practice and McVay said the rookie was not expected to get any “physical” reps this week. But he did not rule him out for the game. “The approach we’ll take this week will be use every moment that we have leading up to game time to make sure that you get him as healthy as possible, and let’s not put him at risk for any potential setbacks,” McVay said. … Quarterback Blake Bortles, who was signed from the Denver Broncos practice squad Tuesday, practiced. ... McVay said he was considering moving practice Friday to SoFi Stadium because of windy conditions that he said were expected in Thousand Oaks. ... McVay on his plans for New Year’s Eve: “Yeah, getting the red-zone plan ready to go so we can score some more points.”


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