THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Cooper Kupp returned to practice with the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, less than three weeks after the receiver injured his knee.
While Kupp is still uncertain whether he’ll play Sunday, the second-year pro is grateful to be anywhere near the field this quickly, since he also incurred a concussion one week before he was carted off the turf in Denver with that knee injury.
“It could have been worse,” Kupp said. “Guys in this league go through a lot worse. It’s football. You know these things are going to happen. At some point, everyone goes through some kind of injury if you play this game long enough. Hopefully you’ll just move through this thing and work through it and get back out there playing the game I love.”
Kupp hopes to be in uniform when the Rams (8-0) visit the New Orleans Saints (6-1) in a tantalizing midseason NFC showdown, and coach Sean McVay expected to have LA’s full complement of receivers at Jared Goff‘s disposal in what could be a high-scoring showdown with Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton.
Kupp was hurt by a horse-collar tackle from the Broncos’ Darian Stewart. One week earlier, he left a game in Seattle after taking a head hit.
The dual experiences were a challenge for a receiver who never missed significant playing time in college at Eastern Washington or during his outstanding rookie season, when he led Los Angeles with 869 yards receiving and formed a tight bond with Goff.
“The first thing that goes through my head as soon as it happens is, `I’m letting these guys down by not being able to be out there and compete,'” Kupp said. “You put so much time and effort into getting your body ready to play, and then when you’re not able to because your body is not allowing you to, you feel like, `What else could I have done to prevent this from happening?'”
A receiver can’t do much about a horse-collar tackle from behind, and the injury was alarming to his teammates.
“I think the knee one was definitely scary to see,” Goff said. “You see those happen all the time, and usually they’re not very good. Whenever someone gets carted off like that, usually it doesn’t end up very good. I think he’s recovered really quickly.”
Kupp had 30 catches for 438 yards and five touchdowns in the Rams’ first five games this season. During his absence from most of the past three games, Los Angeles relied on second-year pro Josh Reynolds to fill Kupp’s usual spot in the Rams’ wideout trio of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Kupp.
Reynolds had only seven catches in the last four games, but two went for touchdowns in last week’s 29-27 win over Green Bay. McVay loves to use his top three receivers in multiple roles with minimal substitutions, so Reynolds’ ability to fill in for Kupp was vital.
“It’s a great group of three,” McVay said. “But I think what’s been great, if you’re going to try to spin a positive on Cooper being out, is it’s given us a chance to see what we believed in Josh Reynolds, and that he’s a starting-caliber receiver, certainly isn’t too big for him.”
The Rams’ passing balance has been a major asset in their unbeaten start. Woods (672 yards receiving) and Cooks (643 yards receiving) are both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons, while running back Todd Gurley is a major factor in the passing game again with 30 catches for 351 yards.
“Those three are very good receivers that can do everything,” McVay said of Woods, Cooks and Kupp. “I think their skill sets complement each other really well.”
NOTES: CB Sam Shields missed practice Thursday with an illness. … LB Trevon Young returned to full participation in practice. … Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips jokingly referred to this weekend’s trip to New Orleans as “another revenge game for me.” Phillips was the Saints’ 38-year-old interim coach for four games in 1985, the first of his six stints as an NFL head coach. “Then they shipped me out of there, so I’m still mad at them,” Phillips said laughingly. … Dante Fowler said his first full practice with the Rams went well, and he is optimistic about being able to contribute Sunday if the Rams put him on the field. Los Angeles acquired the pass-rusher from Jacksonville in a trade Tuesday. “That’s probably one of the easiest positions to come in and play,” Phillips said. “You say, `Hey, you go rush the passer on this down.’ But he’s picked up everything well. Seems like a sharp guy. Picked up everything so far. We may use him in our first- and second-down defense, too.”
More AP NFL: www.apnews.com/NFL and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL