This season is supposed to be one of redemption for the Los Angeles Rams as a whole, but especially for the leaders of the team coming back from injury in Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford and, of course, Cooper Kupp.
A high ankle sprain ended Kupp’s season after just nine games last year and the receiver was ready to reclaim his spot as the NFL’s top player at his position. Earlier in camp a hamstring issue forced Kupp out, but he had returned to practice and looked set to be ready for the Rams’ season opener. But now, what head coach Sean McVay is calling a ‘setback’ has that return in danger.
“Yeah, he got a little muscle strain so we’re kind of taking it day by day with him.” McVay said of a hamstring strain Kupp suffered. “I would probably call it a setback. Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.”
Losing Kupp would be a huge blow to the Rams offense just as it was a season ago and as much as McVay wants Kupp on the field, he also has confidence in the rest of his receivers.
“I think we just take it a day at a time right now,” McVay added. “We’ll see, we want to be able to get him back right. We’re obviously a much better team when he’s available, but in his absence over the last handful of months he’s been out there leading in the way that he can. But those guys at the receiver position have really done a good job of continuing to develop and we’ll see.”
Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell and rookie Puka Nacua are the players who would need to step up in Kupp’s potential absence. While McVay has belief in the growth they have shown, there is no denying it is a big dropoff from Kupp to the rest of the receivers.
Even still, McVay will not rush Kupp’s return as he wants his star not just back on the field, but performing at the highest level.
“Yeah, it’s just tricky because there’s the one thing I’ve heard (Head Team Physician) Neal ElAttrache say this before, ‘There’s a difference between return to play and return to performance.’ And we want return to performance for Cooper Kupp and we know how special of a player, special of a person he is.
“And so we want to make sure that we’re smart with that and getting him back to feeling like the Cooper Kupp that we all know and that he’s able to play the way that he’s capable of and whenever that is, whether that be September 10th or not we’ll continue to monitor that and control what we can control.”
Long-term health is always the priority and the Rams will do everything to ensure Cooper Kupp is at his best for the season as a whole. But not having their star receiver to begin the season will make it an immediate uphill climb.