Unable to trade Cam Akers, Rams face big question: Should he stay or should he go?
Coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that he met with Akers and spoke with his agent about options for the third-year running back, who has not practiced or played in the last two games because of what McVay has described as an internal issue.
“We’re working through a couple different options,” McVay said, “but I was very encouraged with the dialogue we had.”
There is “a possibility” that Akers could practice with the team as it prepares for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla., McVay said.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” he said when asked if Akers could play against the Buccaneers, “but we’re working through some different things.”
Sean McVay wishes he could take back his late-game play call against 49ers that left Rams star Cooper Kupp with an injured ankle and will keep the receiver from practice.
That could mean “exploring other avenues,” which would include releasing Akers, McVay said.
“But … first let him be able to digest some of the things that we discussed, work through that with his family and obviously [agent] David Mulugheta and then we’ll see what’s the next step,” McVay said.
The Rams tried to trade Akers for several weeks, but Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline came and went without a deal.
Akers, 23, and Rams running backs went through a transition during the offseason when McVay, in an effort to help Thomas Brown build a resumé for coordinator or head coach opportunities, moved him from running backs coach to tight ends coach.
McVay hired Ra’Shaad Samples, 27, to replace Brown.
The Rams know they need to fix their running game, but knowing and fixing are different as the 49ers continue their dominance of their NFC West rival.
After the Rams’ season-opening defeat to the Buffalo Bills, McVay said Akers told reporters that he wanted to see Akers play with more urgency. A few days later, Akers said that McVay had discussed the issue with him during training camp — and that he would be more urgent.
“Whatever coach says, man, I’m going to take it and learn from it ... and go from there whether I think it’s right or not,” Akers said. “Maybe I’m not always right.”
A few weeks later, the Rams signed veteran running back Malcolm Brown, ostensibly to add depth but almost certainly because of maturity he could provide to a young running backs corps.
In the five games he played this season, Akers was the team’s leading rusher, with 151 yards and a touchdown in 51 carries. In his last game, a 22-10 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 9, Akers rushed for 33 yards in 13 carries.
He has not practiced with the team since.
The Rams talked about “running it back” to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but with a terrible running attack through seven games, they need to find a back now!
Asked if Akers had been frustrated with his role, McVay replied, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that.”
Akers expressed a desire to be part of the Rams, McVay said. The conversation Wednesday, he added, offered opportunity to self-reflect.
“You can be honest about what you could do differently, talking about myself, some of the expectations,” he said. “There’s a lot of confidence, there’s a lot of belief in the human being and the player Cam Akers, based on the experiences.
“And you don’t want to jump to conclusions just based on a couple things that nobody was necessarily at fault, but it could have been handled better.”
Other than Brown, fourth-year pro Darrell Henderson is the most experienced running back on the roster. Undrafted free agent Ronnie Rivers was activated from the practice squad for the last two games against the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.
Rookie Kyren Williams, a fifth-round draft pick, was designated to return from injured reserve last week but was not activated against the 49ers.
Rams players said Akers’ situation was not a distraction.
“Whatever they’re going through they’ll work that out and I trust whatever decision is made,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.
Henderson, who like Akers grew up in Mississippi, said he did not know the details of Akers’ situation but would welcome him back.
“That’s my brother,” Henderson said, adding, “I’m pretty sure the other backs and the offense and everybody else will be glad to have him back.”
The Rams’ inability to trade Akers — or acquire other players — was a departure of sorts for a team that has typically been active around the trade deadline. The Rams in recent seasons worked deals that brought them contributors such as edge rusher Dante Fowler, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Von Miller.
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But they made no deals this year.
“Just because we’ve done that the last couple years, that doesn’t mean that its standard operating procedure for us,” McVay said. “It’s got to be able to have the right fit for us.”
Discussions took place with other teams, but trades were not consummated for a variety of reasons, he said.
“It’s got to be the right fit, it’s got to be the right player,” McVay said. “In some instances, you’re looking at it and you might not necessarily have the compensation that they’re looking for in return. Or we felt like it didn’t necessarily fit.”
McVay fought back tears while discussing his grandfather, John McVay, the former NFL coach and San Francisco 49ers executive who died Monday at age 91. “You want to continue to honor the legacy that he left, work as hard as you possibly can, treat people the right way, lead in the tough moments and stay humble in the good moments, just like he did always,” Sean McVay said. “It’s an easy thing to think about, ‘How would grandpa handle this?’ to kind of keep me in line and be really grateful and blessed for all the things that he’s brought to our family and to me especially.”… Receiver Cooper Kupp (ankle), center Brian Allen (knee) and linebacker Terrell Lewis (rest) did not practice, but all are expected to play Sunday. Receiver Van Jefferson (knee) was limited, but he also is expected to play.
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