Rams travel to New Orleans after losing to the Arizona

What's next? To compound matters for the 2022 Los Angeles Rams, the defending NFL Champions received more bad news on Tuesday when the team announced that wide receiver Cooper Kupp will undergo surgery on Wednesday for a high right ankle sprain. Kupp was injured during the fourth quarter in the Rams 27-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

"Obviously, you never ever replace a player like Cooper Kupp, but we got to figure out the best way to accentuate the skill sets of the guys that will be playing," said Rams head coach Sean McVay during Tuesday's media conference. McVay revealed that Kupp will be placed on the team's injured reserve list for five to six weeks, which means that the Super Bowl LVI MVP could return to the active roster by the end of the season.

Kupp had played in 57 consecutive regular season games for the Rams since missing the second half of the 2018 season, when he suffered an ACL injury in his rookie year. This season Kupp leads the team through nine games with 75 receptions on 98 targeted passes, for 812 total yards and seven touchdowns, including one rushing score. Last season he led the NFL with 145 receptions for 1947 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kupp is currently ranked second in the league in receptions, fifth in yards and tied for fifth in touchdowns.

"Thanks to everyone who has reached out and sent prayers! This is unfortunately just part of the game. Appreciate having a trusted medical team around me. Gonna get this thing fixed, then get back to work!" tweeted Kupp on Tuesday.

Interestingly, though not directly related to the injury, on Saturday Kupp tweeted his concern about injuries related to artificial turf: "I believe that we -- and all teams -- should be playing on grass. This is an age-old issue, and I believe the time to address the problem is now! Let's have the conversation."

The tweet coincided with Jeff Miller's (NFL Executive Vice President of Communications) statement on the same day in response to the NFL Players Association's concerns about the use of artificial surfaces: "As the NFLPA knows from the meeting of our Joint Field Surface Safety & Performance Committee earlier this month, there was no difference between the number of injuries on synthetic surfaces versus grass."

"While slit-film surfaces, one type of synthetic material, have 2-3 more injuries per year, most of them are ankle sprains - a low-burden injury (an incredible statement by a league official minimizing injuries) - whereas slit film also sees a lower rate of fewer high-burden ACL injuries compared to other synthetic fields. As a result, the league and NFLPA's joint experts did not recommend any changes to surfaces at the meeting but agreed more study is needed."

The NFL Players Association website (https://nflpa.com/posts/nfl-player-health-safety-lies-beneath-the-surface) also on Saturday advocated four clear steps that needed to be taken for the players' health and safety: 1. The immediate replacement and ban of all slit film turf; 2. No longer allowing games to be played on fields with clear visual abnormalities; 3. For players, it means we need to raise the field standards and test the safety and performance of all field surfaces; 4. Clear the excess people and dangerous equipment from the sidelines.

As the injuries pile up for the Rams this season, wide receiver Van Jefferson will be asked to take on a greater role to fill the vacuum created by Kupp's absence. Van Jefferson missed the Rams first six games of the season with a knee injury incurred during early training camp in July. He was activated but saw no action three weeks ago in the 31-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He didn't catch a pass in five targets during the following week's 16-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and caught three passes for 27 yards on Sunday versus the Cardinals.

McVay was hopeful but reserved about Van Jefferson's impact. "I think that's a lot of things that he can draw confidence on, just continuing to get back comfortable playing in real game-like settings and being able to utilize the ability to be able to separate and play the position the way that he's accustomed to."

"We've wanted to take smart steps to be able to kind of onboard him or get him back in position with just kind of a progressive workload, but I do think that's something that he can draw a lot of confidence on the way that he was able to finish up that game and we're hopeful for more opportunities for Van and more snaps if he's feeling good."

The Rams' receiving corps has been decimated this season, exacerbated by the team trading Robert Woods (the heart and soul of the Rams since they returned to Los Angeles in 2016) to the Tennessee Titans for a 2023 sixth-round pick. Odell Beckham Jr., injured during Super Bowl LVI, very unlikely to return and will likely sign with an NFL contender as the season winds down. Allen Robinson, acquired from the Chicago Bears in the off-season, has not lived up to expectations yet as a viable threat in the Rams offense. Robinson has caught 29 passes on 47 targets, for 292 total yards and two touchdowns in nine games this season.

"What we have to really be able to do is figure out what is the best way for us to utilize the players that were expecting to play, what do they do best, and then how does that get reflected in the way that you're trying to attack certain schemes relative to the upcoming opponent, and this being the New Orleans Saints?" said McVay preparing for this Sunday's game at New Orleans, starting 10:00 a.m. PT. The Saints are 3-7 and in last place in the NFC South.

"How do we connect with these guys? How do we focus on that daily improvement? How do we see that reflected with the way that they're playing?" asked McVay. With the 3-6 Rams continuing to struggle to duplicate last seasons' championship run, there are more questions than answers going into the second half of the season.


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