The high expectations for the L.A. Rams became tempered last week by the season-ending injury suffered by one of the most promising young running backs in the league, Cam Akers. As quarterback Matthew Stafford arrived for his first training camp with any team other than the Lions, Stafford addressed the impact of the absence of Akers on the team.
“Really tough to see that happen to a young guy that’s a really promising, talented player,” Stafford told reporters. “Unfortunately, that’s kind of the name of the game in the NFL. You hate to see it happen in the offseason when we’re playing a game or something, but it’s next man up. Those guys are going to battle it out and I’m sure we’ll do whatever we can to make the running game as good as we possibly can. Cam was a really productive player as a young guy last year. And we were looking for a lot out of them this year. But next man up, we’ll go from there. Wish him the best obviously.”
Stafford remains confident in the running game, even without Akers.
“I think I have a lot of belief and a lot of trust in the guys that we have in that locker room and on the coaching staff to no matter who’s back there, we’re going to have a successful running game,” Stafford said. “Really the biggest gut punch was for the kid. I think it’s so difficult. I dealt with injuries my first couple of years. Really throughout your career, you end up doing it here in the NFL. So that one’s obviously a tough one and one that’s going to take some time. So I really feel for him, more so than I do us as a team. I know we’ll miss him out there. He’s a great player, but just feel bad for him to not get the opportunity to go out there and play the game that I know he loves to play. We’ll do everything we can to make him proud.”
Given that Stafford played with Adrian Peterson in 2020, the quarterback potentially can give the Rams input as to whether the future Hall of Famer should be signed. It sounds like the Rams haven’t sought Stafford’s input on Peterson, yet.
“They haven’t really talked to me much,” Stafford said. “I think other than the fact that kind of saying, ‘Dang,’ like we all are. We wish we wish him the best of luck in his recovery. [I] feel great about the guys that we have in that room and the guys that we have up front and the scheme that we have to help guys succeed at that position. So that’s the name of the game in this league. You got to have some depth and got to have guys step up and we’ll definitely have that.”
That meshes with the team’s intended approach, at least for now. Next man up, with the possibility of potentially adding a veteran later, if necessary.
No matter how they try to sell this one, the absence of Akers hurts. If he’d become the player he looked to be ready to become, Akers could have had a special season. The Rams could still have a special season without Akers, but it will be more difficult than it would have been with him.