Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. share pain and jubilation in Rams’ win
Robert Woods knew his pain.
After halftime in Sunday’s Super Bowl, Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. lingered in the locker room, moved to tears after a noncontact leg injury that saw the star receiver crumple to the turf. He’d writhed in pain, mouth agape in a scream, clutching at his left knee. In the third quarter, the team announced Beckham was ruled out for the rest of the game.
It was a tough end to a game that would have gone down as a statement for a player maligned for years. Beckhamcaught the first touchdown of Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals, a leaping grab in the end zone in front of the SoFi Stadium fans, his seventh score as a Ram after seven combined over 2½ seasons with the Cleveland Browns. A midseason trade to Los Angeles was a chance at redemption.
An arc incomplete, Beckham sat in the locker room as his team returned to the field. But before rejoining the sidelines, he found a moment of solace with Woods, who wrapped his arms around the receiver, who finished with two receptions for 52 yards Sunday.
“Just held him,” Woods said postgame. “Just to be able to hold him and say, ‘I’ll be here every step.’ ”
Woods knows what a long road to recovery feels like. Knows what it feels like to see his teammates play in the biggest game of the season without him.
On Nov. 12, Woods tore his anterior cruciate ligament during a practice. The Rams’ second option in the passing game, he’d racked up 556 yards and four touchdowns through nine games. It left his team stunned, suddenly down a player that Beckham had called “the heart and soul of this team.”
The emotion always starts with the national anthem, Woods said. In particular, he felt the energy build Sunday as Mickey Guyton sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it sinking in that he’d be spending another of the biggest games of his life on the bench.
But Woods has kept his head up throughout this season, some of the hardest times of his life. His father Robert II died unexpectedly two weeks ago, someone he thinks about often, he said.
He caught himself Sunday, he said, stepping back from the emotion and falling back into the vocal leadership role that has so often galvanized the Rams.
Fans celebrate the Rams’ first Super Bowl victory in Los Angeles, a 23-20 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium.
“I got into Coach Woods,” Woods said.
He was there throughout a Super Bowl that went down to the wire, hanging on a final drive from the offense that ended in receiver Cooper Kupp’s second touchdown catch of the game. Woods paced back and forth on the sidelines, clenching a towel.
“Guys are worn out, guys are tired, guys are banged up,” Woods said after the Rams’ 23-20 win. “It’s like, this is the last game of your life, this is the time to be legendary … obviously, you’re hurting. I’m going to need you to hurt for 15 more minutes.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford brought up Woods’ name as a veteran on the team he was particularly happy for.
“Robert Woods on our team, Cooper, so many guys that I could name that deserve this for the way they go to work every single day,” Stafford said.
Kupp, the Super Bowl MVP, has spoken at length about Woods’ professionalism from the start of his Rams tenure. After Kupp was left without his wingman in the Rams’ passing attack, Woods has been a frequent supporter on the sidelines.
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After Kupp’s final catch, Woods gave him a word of congratulations: “Applesauce.”
“I was just telling him, ‘Congratulations, you did it,’ ” Woods said. “I was like, ‘Cooper, you’re just being yourself.’ ”
He might not have played, but Woods fulfilled the mentorship role he’s inhabited all season on Sunday. As he works back from his own injury, he’ll keep fulfilling that role, promising to help Beckham in his recovery however he can.
In the meantime, though, Woods has earned his Super Bowl ring.
“This is the moment that we dreamed of since we were kids,” Woods said. “It’s better than we dreamed of. I can definitely say that.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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