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Robert Woods’ torn ACL on ‘freak accident’ stuns Odell Beckham Jr. and Rams

Rams wide receiver Robert Woods turns upfield after making a catch against Lions safety Tracy Walker.
Rams wide receiver Robert Woods turns upfield after making a catch against Lions safety Tracy Walker on Oct. 24.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A day that had all the makings for delight turned dour at the Rams’ practice facility Saturday.

Shortly before new star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. practiced with the team for the first time, coach Sean McVay said receiver Robert Woods would be out the rest of the season because of a knee injury.

Woods, one of the key components for a boom-or-bust team making moves for a Super Bowl run, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice on Friday.

“You’re sick for Robert,” McVay said. “He’s epitomized everything that’s been right about this place. Such a great competitor, such a tough player… it’s so unfortunate.”

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Woods was injured on the same day Beckham arrived at the Rams’ facility and signed a one-year contract. Woods’ injury resulted from a “freak accident,” McVay said.

“He’s just running something on air, puts his foot in the ground weird, and he kind of came back and said that he felt OK,” McVay said.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey turned recruiter when he heard Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. might become Rams, contacting the stars to introduce them to L.A.

A scan performed later revealed the injury, McVay said.

Beckham, a three-time Pro Bowl player, wore No. 3 on Saturday as he went through drills for the first time.

“Feeling good, man,” he said afterward. “Sunshine, smiles. Feel blessed to be here.”

On Thursday, Woods was among a group of Rams players that lobbied Beckham to sign with the Rams. Beckham said it had been disheartening to learn of Woods’ injury.

“Everything felt right about coming here except that moment,” he said. “This is a guy who called me on the phone, on FaceTime, and we shared words and just how excited we were to work together.

“And for me to be able to learn from him. And it’s just, I have no words for it.”

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. speaks to reporters at practice in Thousand Oaks on Saturday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. runs a pass route during NFL football practice.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. runs a pass route during practice Saturday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Beckham’s status for Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium is still to be determined.

“There’s a chance,” McVay said when asked if Beckham would be ready to play. “We’re going to see. You can see he’s a really sharp guy… We’ll see how he’s feeling, and we’ll see what that looks like as far as how we are able to utilize him if he’s ready to go on Monday.”

Beckham said he would be ready if called upon.

“Right now, I’m trying to find ways to learn the playbook as fast as possible,” he said, “and if there’s something he needs me to do, I’m always willing to do whatever it is. So I guess we’ll see come Monday.”

But replacing Woods — “the heart and soul of this team,” Beckham said — will be difficult.

Woods, 29, has been instrumental in the Rams’ success since signing with the team as a free agent in 2017.

Woods, an All-American at USC who played his first four NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills, produced more than 1,100 yards receiving in 2018 and 2019. Early last season, the Rams signed him to a four-year extension that included $32 million in guarantees.

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This season, he has 45 catches for 556 yards and four touchdowns.

But Woods’ value extends beyond his pass-catching ability. He is regarded as one of the league’s best blockers, matching up against larger linebackers and defensive linemen.

“You don’t ever replace a player like him,” McVay said. “But it’ll certainly require a lot of guys to play better and really carry the torch because of everything that you miss without him.”

Woods’ injury leaves the Rams with a receiver corps that includes Beckham, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, J.J. Koski and rookie Ben Skowronek.

“Rob’s one of a kind in terms of the things that he was able to do so it might take a few guys to step in and fill that role,” said Kupp, who leads NFL receivers in targets, catches, yards receiving and touchdowns. “We are figuring it out still. … As players, everyone can take it up a notch.”

The loss of Woods is reminiscent of 2018, when Kupp suffered a season-ending knee injury exactly three years and one day before Woods’ injury. The Rams finished 13-3 and then made a playoff run to advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

Beckham, who played his first five NFL seasons with the New York Giants, suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2020 while playing for the Cleveland Browns. Beckham and the Browns parted ways Nov. 8 because Beckham was unhappy about his role.

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walks on the field during practice Saturday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

“It’s been a whirlwind, a whirlwind of emotions,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t work out in life and when you take those leaps of faith it’s always scary at the moment. … It’s been a pretty crazy last 10 days or so for me, but I’m just blessed and happy to be here right now.”

Beckham said he was “taking it minute by minute, hour by hour,” as he acclimates to a new situation. He said he felt like “the new kid on the block” with the 7-2 Rams and that his decision to join a team that included friends Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller “just felt right in my heart.”

“I’ve always loved the West Coast,” he said. “You wake up and I would say [it’s] 75 [degrees], but it feels a little more than that.

“It’s nice, it’s sunny and it’s hard not to be motivated to want to be great.”


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