Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford slammed his surgically repaired right thumb into a defender’s helmet during a throw Monday, ending his day early and leaving the Rams' sideline to hold its collective breath.
The Rams had no substantive update on Stafford’s status after practice, but Rams coach Sean McVay said he was hopeful “everything will be OK there.”
“We’ll see,” McVay said. “He’s so tough as it is. Look at what he played through all last year to get the thumb cleaned up. He’s a tough guy. We’ll see what they say and take it one day at a time.”
Stafford had surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his right thumb in early March, shortly after the Rams acquired him from the Detroit Lions in a blockbuster trade that included two first-round picks and quarterback Jared Goff.
It was just the latest in a laundry list of minor injuries for the veteran quarterback, several of which also have been to his throwing hand. But Stafford didn’t miss any of the Rams’ offseason workouts and he came into training camp without any concerns about the injury lingering.
That history — along with the recent season-ending Achilles injury to running back Cam Akers — made Monday’s scene particularly unsettling as the quarterback grimaced and held his right hand on his way to the sideline. Rams trainer Reggie Scott wrapped the thumb, and Stafford remained on the sideline, clutching a towel in that right hand.
Stafford didn’t return to action, as backup quarterback John Wolford led the first-team offense for the remainder of practice. As Stafford left the field, he gripped his helmet with his right hand.
After practice, McVay bemoaned that he hadn’t done more to protect his quarterback from such an accident.
“It’s one of those things where I’m saying to myself, I feel stupid that I didn’t implement some of the things to prevent that,” McVay said. “I’ve seen some teams around the league where they have those shells on the helmets, where you can soften the blow if you come down on top of it. It’s one of those things where you hope you don’t have to learn the hard way.”
It’s been a particularly painful few years for Stafford, as he has dealt with a multitude of injuries over the course of his final seasons in Detroit. Stafford told the Detroit Free Press in February that, during the last season alone, he played through the partially torn ligament in his thumb, a torn ligament in his left elbow, a broken rib and a right ankle sprain. He still started all 16 games.
Stafford suffered the torn ligament in his thumb during a Nov. 15 matchup with Washington but still completed 24 of 33 passes for 276 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 win.
In March, during a video conference with Los Angeles reporters, Stafford downplayed his reputation for playing through pain.
“I just walk through that locker room Mondays after games and see guys beat up and know that they’re going to be out there on Sunday,” Stafford said, “and if they’re going to be out there, I sure want them to know that I’m going to be out there as well.”
McVay pointed to that toughness Monday as a reason to remain hopeful, even as the status of Stafford’s thumb hung in the balance.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.