Last May, the day the NFL released its schedule, the game between the Rams and the Tennessee Titans looked like a classic match.
Can star defender Aaron Donald and the Rams’ front-line team stop the Titans from running backwards of Derrick Henry, the league leader for the past two seasons?
Henry appeared to be on his way to another meteoric title this season before injuring his leg last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. This week, the Titans signed 36-year-old Adrian Peterson to replace Henry, and the future Hall of Fame member will play Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
But the shine is not in the match.
And the Titans aren’t the only team dealing with injuries.
The Rams are 7-1 without a star, but several key players, including quarterback Matthew Stafford, are treating injuries that prevented them from fully participating in training last week.
Stafford had a stiff back. Corner-back Jalen Ramsey has a sore knee. Receiver Robert Woods – leg problem.
Everyone is expected to play on Sunday, but the wear and tear of the longest season in NFL history is starting to take a toll on the squad considered a contender for the LVI Super Bowl at their home field in February.
Coach Sean McVeigh noted this week that the Rams have not played a game on natural grass this season. They won’t be back until next Monday night when they play the San Francisco 49ers at Levi Stadium in the Rams final before the open date.
“It’s tough on the bodies of these players,” McVeigh said of playing only on artificial turf.
The Rams put Sebastian Joseph-Day’s starting defensive tackle on an injured reserve on Friday as he has surgery to repair a pectoral injury he sustained against the Detroit Lions on 24 October. McVeigh said earlier this week that the kicker Tutu Atwell was out of the season with a shoulder injury.
Stafford, a 13-year-old professional, has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He did not train on Wednesday or Thursday and was restricted on Friday.
But he said it would be “good” to play on Sunday.
“It doesn’t bother me, just toughness,” he said.
McVeigh said he is not worried that Stafford will face the Titans 6-2 with only one limited training session this week.
“I’m not just because of our dialogue,” McVay said, adding, “He’s had some similar things that surfaced in years past and doesn’t seem to be worried about it. … When you are a veteran like him, you let them dictate the terms. “
The Rams also spent a week assessing the health of outside midfielder Von Miller, his latest stellar acquisition.
Miller arrived on Tuesday after the Rams sent the Denver Broncos’ 2022 second and third round elections for a three-time All-Pro and Super Bowl 50 Most Valuable Player list.
Miller, 32, treats an ankle injury he suffered against the Cleveland Browns on Oct.21. Injury pushed him out of the Broncos game last Sunday against Washington and restricted him during Rams training this week.
McVeigh said Miller’s availability on Sunday could be a game time decision.
Miller is looking forward to playing at SoFi Stadium. He missed an opportunity in 2020 when the Broncos played the Chargers with an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire season.
“I’ve heard stories about how incredible it is and how modern it is,” he said of the stadium. “The Super Bowl will be this year, and I hope we will play there.”
The Rams, with a four-win streak, can take that goal one step further if they can beat the Titans, who have also won four in a row.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel said his team needed to get out of Henry’s situation.
“I hope we can understand Derrick and be disappointed in him, but we never really felt sorry for ourselves,” said Vrabel, adding, “Nobody will feel sorry for you in the NFL.”
Donald is among them.
Asked if he was Frustrated that Henry had been suspended, Donald responded quickly.
“No, I was not disappointed,” he said. “I hope he’s okay. I pray for him, but I didn’t. “