Matthew Stafford says talk of young Rams is old news, but Cooper Kupp absence is not

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) talks to wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) will be without star receiver Cooper Kupp in the season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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As Matthew Stafford prepares for his 15th season, the Rams quarterback is fielding questions about connections.

On Wednesday, Stafford addressed for the first time recent comments made by his wife, Kelly, during her podcast. Kelly Stafford said her husband felt as if he could not connect with younger teammates in the Rams’ locker room.

Asked if he felt connected to teammates, Stafford, 35, said he “definitely” did. He said his wife’s comments had not been discussed with teammates.


“Those guys understand where I’m coming from — they see me come in this building every single day and know how I go to work, know I interact with everybody,” he said. “And we didn’t really think too much about it to be honest with you.”

Rams star receiver Cooper Kupp will miss the season opener because of a hamstring injury. Brett Rypien will be the No. 2 quarterback in the opener because rookie Stetson Bennett hurt his shoulder.

Sept. 6, 2023

Stafford said he has moved on.

“I’m not too worried about it,” he said. “Nobody in that locker room is too worried about it, I can promise you that. We’ve completely moved on, not that we ever really stopped to think about it to be honest with you.”

NFL rosters turn over every season, forcing older players to connect with a steady stream of younger teammates. The Rams will have one of the youngest rosters.

“That’s the great part about this game is you get exposure to all kinds of different people from all kinds of places and different places in their life,” Stafford said. “And I love being a part of that.

“That’s probably my favorite thing is coming into the locker room and being a part of that.”

On Sunday, in the season opener at Seattle, Stafford will be without star receiver Cooper Kupp, his favorite target — and possibly for longer — because of a hamstring injury that could land Kupp on injured reserve.


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Sept. 5, 2023

How will Stafford cope without that proven connection? Receivers Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, rookie Puka Nacua and possibly Ben Skowronek and Demarcus Robinson will attempt to step up. Those players must be allowed to be themselves, Stafford said.

“You’re not going to go try to be Cooper Kupp,” Stafford said. “Just go be the best version of yourself you can be.”

Coach Sean McVay has said that the Rams want Kupp to “return to performance” rather than simply return to play. So the Rams are considering putting the 2021 offensive player of the year on IR, which would require Kupp to sit out at least four games.

“We want to be able to get Cooper back when he’s ready to go,” McVay said. “And in the meantime, a lot of guys have been able to get a great chance to be able to develop, establish a rapport with Matthew.”

The activities of new Rams offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have allowed coach Sean McVay more flexibility to oversee the big picture even as he continues to call plays.

Sept. 5, 2023

Stafford is coming off a season cut short by injuries. He was sidelined for one game because of a concussion and sat out the final seven because of a spinal injury.

Stafford passed for 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions. The Rams finished 5-12, the worst season-after performance by a Super Bowl champion in history.


After “a long, healthy offseason,” Stafford said he is ready physically, mentally and emotionally for the season to begin.

“I just want to be able to do everything that I was asked to do at as high a level as I possibly can,” he said.