No Cooper Kupp, no worries. No reason for concern.
That theme characterized the answers of Rams receivers Monday when asked what it would be like to play the Seattle Seahawks without their star teammate, whose status for the season opener on Sunday is in doubt because of a lingering hamstring injury.
Coach Sean McVay said Kupp was in Minnesota receiving an evaluation from unspecified experts. A decision on Kupp’s availability for the opener — and beyond — was pending, he said.
So the Rams, coming off a 5-12 season, are preparing for their opener without one of their few established stars.
If Kupp does not play against the Seahawks, then Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, rookie Puka Nacua or perhaps Ben Skowronek would start at receiver.
“You’ve got to be able to operate with the situation and the guys that we do have,” McVay said when asked about Kupp before practice in Thousand Oaks. ”And if he’s able to go, that’s outstanding for us. And if not, then that’s how we’ve been operating.”
Last season, Kupp caught 75 passes in nine games. Jefferson, Atwell and Skowroneck combined for 81 during the entire season.
“We want Cooper to be healthy — if he’s out there Week 1 that’s great,” Jefferson said. “We know how important he is to the team and the locker room.
“But if he’s not able to play, we have to be able to work with the guys that we have. All of us are prepared, and had great camps and we’re ready to go. We’re going to be fine.”
Kupp, coming off season-ending ankle injury, did not participate in the voluntary offseason workout program so that he could be with his family as they awaited the birth of a third child. He suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp.
Kupp participated in joint practices with the Denver Broncos before the final preseason game, but McVay said last week that the seventh-year pro suffered a setback.
Kupp’s absences have enabled other receivers to get extended work with Stafford.
“If we don’t have Cooper, it’s tough for us as a team,” Skowronek said. “But we’re ready to step up.”
Kupp, 30, has come back from several injuries during his career.
In 2018, he missed the Rams’ run to Super Bowl LIII because of a season ending knee injury. In 2020, he suffered another knee injury that forced him to sit out an NFC divisional-round defeat loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Kupp is seeking further evaluation of his latest injury because it has not gone “in alignment” with how similar injuries have or have not healed, McVay said.
“It’s just really trying to explore all avenues and get some clarity,” McVay said.
Asked if he was concerned that it could be a long-term issue for Kupp, McVay was noncommittal.
“I'm careful to speak too far in advance just where there is a little bit of gray,” McVay said.
So the Rams wait.
“The most important thing is,” McVay said, “is whenever he’s able to take the field, whether that be this week, whether that be Week 2, whatever it is, as long as he’s able to have that return to performance, he’s feeling like the Cooper Kupp that we all know and love, and he’s got some clarity on, all right what is really going on, I think that will be a really good situation for us.”
The Rams were practicing for the first time since last week, but back-up quarterback Stetson Bennett did not practice because he was given an approved rest day, a team spokesperson said. … The Rams are off Tuesday. They resume preparations for the Seahawks on Wednesday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.