Rams running back Cam Akers ‘still working to get back’ and might not play Sunday
Coach Sean McVay had said this week there was a possibility Akers could play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
But when asked after practice if the ideal situation would be for Akers to return for the playoffs, McVay said “the target’s always potentially been,” the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers or the playoffs.
“That was always the timeline that we’ve had in place,” McVay said after the workout at SoFi Stadium. “He has definitely exceeded our expectations to even be available at this point. And so, I would say the Niners game, or the playoffs is what we’ve always kind of pinpointed as the potential spots.
“But the way he practiced last week made this week a possibility as well.”
McVay did not officially rule out Akers against the Ravens, saying his status was still to be determined. But that was probably competitive gamesmanship.
The Times’ Sam Farmer analyzes each matchup and predicts the winners of Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season.
The Rams clinched a playoff spot last Sunday with a 30-23 road victory over the Minnesota Vikings. They will play on the road again with a chance to win the NFC West if they defeat the Ravens, and the Arizona Cardinals lose to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Akers, 22, was on track to start this season after a solid, and occasionally spectacular, rookie season that ended with 131-yard and 90-yard rushing efforts in playoff games.
But in July, Akers was injured while preparing for training camp, and Darrell Henderson returned to the top of the running backs depth chart.
Because of Henderson’s durability issues, the Rams traded for Sony Michel near the end of the preseason. And Michel has flourished since starting a Dec. 5 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in the victory over the Vikings, the second time in four games he eclipsed 100 yards.
The Rams activated Akers to the roster last week so that he would be credited with a season toward an NFL pension. He was not active for the Vikings game.
After suffering a knee sprain at the end of his only carry against the Vikings, Henderson was put on injured reserve. And McVay said Monday there was “a chance that Cam plays this week.”
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who like Akers played at Florida State and shares the same agent, said Thursday that Akers should return only when he is ready.
“Cam’s still working to get back — let me say that — he’s still working to get back,” Ramsey said after practice. “Personally, I don’t like the perception that’s kind of like he’s already back so that he may be getting pushed to come back or anything like that.
“No, it’s a process and it’s a journey that he’ll continue to go on, and he’ll continue to grind and rehab, and when the time is right for him to be feeling 100% and ready to come back and contribute to the team, obviously, we going to welcome him back, but we don’t want him not feeling good.”
Akers has a long career ahead of him, said Ramsey, a sixth-year pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.
“I definitely don’t want Cam to feel like anybody is rushing him back, that his journey needs to speed up at all,” Ramsey said. “He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
McVay said he agreed that Akers was still working to return to game readiness. Akers has excelled in some practice drills, but because the Rams are not tackling or even in full pads, it is a challenge to fully assess him, particularly in “unscripted movements,” McVay said.
“He’s a special player, and we do want to be smart with it,” he said.
Rookie Jake Funk, who returned from a hamstring injury a few weeks ago, will serve as Michel’s backup against the Ravens.
Rams seem more resilient as the season goes on, considering Matthew Stafford had three passes intercepted last week and they still beat the Vikings and are in first place in the NFC West.
Michel, Funk and quarterback Matthew Stafford will operate behind a line that returned to full strength Thursday when left tackle Andrew Whitworth was activated to the roster from the reserve/COVID-19 list.
That should help against a Ravens defense that is giving up a league-low 85.6 yards rushing per game, and a league-high 280.5 yards passing.
Nose tackle Greg Gaines, who had surgery on a finger on his left hand Monday, did not practice, but McVay said he expected that Gaines would play Sunday. Safety Taylor Rapp (shoulder) and receiver Van Jefferson (rest) did not practice. ... Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) did not practice but has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game. If Jackson does not play, Tyler Huntley would start in his place.
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