Cam Akers practices for the first time in weeks as Rams mull running back situation
A boisterous scene in the Rams locker room unfolded Thursday after running back Cam Akers practiced for the first time in more than two weeks.
As reporters gathered to interview Akers at his locker, teammates playfully yelled their support of the third-year pro.
“I’m in-house,” said Akers. “I’m back with the team, so I’m happy.”
Akers, a second-round draft pick in 2020, had been estranged since the Rams’ Oct. 9 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys.
During Akers’ absence, the Rams defeated the Carolina Panthers but lost to the San Francisco 49ers, falling to 3-4 heading into Sunday’s game against the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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“Glad to have him back,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “Hopefully we can get him going. If that’s this week and we can get him turned over both physically and mentally to play on Sunday, great.
“If not, then we’ll continue to kind of see how that situation develops and see where it can go moving forward.”
Coach Sean McVay, who does not speak with reporters on Thursdays during the season, had described Akers’ situation as an “internal” issue. But there clearly was a disconnect that led to the absence of a player who was leading the team in rushing.
The Rams attempted to trade Akers before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline but found no takers.
McVay said Wednesday he was encouraged by conversations he had with Akers and his agent but did not rule out the possibility that Akers could be released.
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But Akers was back Thursday, apparently in good standing.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said Thursday: “We had a disagreement. Cam and our system, right?”
Apprised of Morris’ comment, Akers said, “I don’t think that’s accurate.” But he declined to elaborate on what led to his absence.
“Sometimes the unexpected happens,” he said.
Akers, 23, had several impressive performances in 2020 as a rookie, then sat out nearly all of the 2021 season while making a remarkable comeback from an Achilles injury suffered on the eve of training camp.
But last summer, McVay told Akers during training camp, and again early in the season, that he wanted to see him play with more urgency.
After the Rams’ first five games, Akers led the team with 151 yards rushing and a touchdown in 51 carries. In the loss to the Cowboys, he rushed for 33 yards in 13 carries.
Did McVay ask him to step away?
“We’ll keep that in house,” Akers said. “Whatever happened, happened. Just move forward now.”
Akers said he did not ask to be traded or not be part of the team.
“I never asked to not play,” he said. “I never asked to not practice.”
The possibility of being traded was “more of a mutual thing,” Akers said. Had he hoped to be dealt?
“Whatever the best situation would have been, or is, that’s where I’m at,” he said. “So just leave it at that.”
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Akers said it was tough to be away from football.
“When you love the sport, you don’t want to be pulled away from it,” he said. “Especially when you’re healthy, you feel good, you mentally feel right. ... But obviously it’s a business. You take the bitter with the sweet and you keep rollin’.”
A day after McVay said his most recent conversation with Akers had caused him to self-reflect about how he might have handled some parts of the situation differently, Akers indicated he had done the same.
“Just make sure I’m putting my best foot forward in practice, film room, just the normal things,” he said, “and make sure I’m doing it consistently.”
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald was among the players happy to see Akers back in the fold.
“He looked like he’s in good spirits,” Donald said, adding, “He had a smile on his face, that’s good. So I’m ready to see him back working.”
Receivers Cooper Kupp (ankle) and Van Jefferson (knee), center Brian Allen (knee) and linebacker Jake Hummel (hip) were limited in practice, per the Rams injury report. Defensive lineman Greg Gaines and linebacker Ernest Jones did not practice because of illness.
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