Surprised by trade, Rams new back Sony Michel prepares to run through playbook
Todd Gurley, a former Rams star running back for five seasons, sent along congratulations.
“He kept it simple,” Michel said Thursday after practice at the Rams’ facility in Thousand Oaks. “Congratulated me on the move because I’m sure he knows what kind of system I’m coming into.
“So, I thought that was pretty cool.”
The Rams acquired Michel on Wednesday, sending a 2022 sixth-round draft pick and 2023 fourth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for a player who has twice rushed for more than 900 yards and amassed more than 200 carries in a season.
Michel participated in individual and position-group drills Thursday but did not participate in the team scrimmage. He said he had not begun to dive into the playbook, a process that will go into hyperdrive as the Rams prepare for their Sept. 12 opener against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams bolstered their running back corps by acquiring Sony Michel from the New England Patriots in a trade. The Rams love his big-game experience.
Michel’s plan is simple.
“Fill whatever void they need filled,” he said.
The Rams traded for Michel because Cam Akers is out for the season with an Achilles injury and Darrell Henderson’s durability remains a question mark. Michel brings experience and a physical running style to a position group that also includes Jake Funk and Xavier Jones.
“Some of the volatility of what Darrell’s gone through even just throughout the course of camp, we wanted to make sure you got somebody else that’s played in big-time games,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “Darrell is still going to have a really big role — it doesn’t really change the outlook for him, and we’ll see how quickly we can get Sony up to speed.”
“Something suddenly happens, and you just got to get ready to kind of execute. Not much time can be wasted.”
— Sony Michel, on being surprised by trade to the Rams
Michel, the 31st pick in the 2018 NFL draft, helped the Patriots defeat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII as a rookie and he was productive in 2019. But he was sidelined for seven games last season because of a quadriceps injury. During the offseason, the Patriots opted not to exercise their fifth-year option, making Michel a probable trade candidate.
But Michel said he was surprised that he was dealt. He said football terminology regarding sudden change was the best way to describe his reaction.
“It’s like,” he said, snapping his fingers, “something suddenly happens, and you just got to get ready to kind of execute. Not much time can be wasted.
“Just kind of got to get up, get ready to go and kind of get adjusted.”
Michel’s acclimation is expected to be aided by his familiarity with running backs coach Thomas Brown, his position coach at Georgia in 2015. Gurley had been drafted by the Rams with the 10th overall pick, and Michel developed into the Bulldogs’ leading rusher.
Brown’s endorsement helped pave the way to acquire Michel, McVay said, and Brown will “accelerate the learning curve” for Michel.
Five things to know about Sony Michel, who already has a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots. He has worked with the Rams’ running backs coach before.
“I do anticipate him being a quick study,” McVay said, “and the goal is to have him ready to go and be a big-time contributor,” in the opener.
A productive Michel could help the Rams contend for the NFC West title and a return to the Super Bowl.
Michel’s fourth-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl LIII helped send the Rams to a 13-3 defeat. Now he has a chance to help them reach Super Bowl LVI, to be played in February at SoFi Stadium.
“Fortunately, we came out on top,” Michel said of his Super Bowl victory with the Patriots, “but now I’m on the other side.
“So, let’s see if we can make something happen.”
Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson did not practice because of a knee issue that will require surgery and sideline him for a few weeks, McVay said. Outside linebacker Obo Okoronkwo remains sidelined because of a neck/shoulder issue.
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