Quarterback Baker Mayfield is on track to start the Rams’ last four games, but injured star wide receiver Cooper Kupp will not be catching any of Mayfield’s passes.
Coach Sean McVay on Tuesday made it clear that Kupp, like quarterback Matthew Stafford, almost certainly will not play again until the 2023 season.
“You won’t see Cooper this year,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters, adding, “I would be hard-pressed to see any scenario that he would play again this year.”
McVay backtracked a bit when asked what went into the decision to shut down Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year who is on injured reserve and has been sidelined for four games after surgery for a high ankle sprain.
“It’s just the timing of the injury and how long it would take for him to get back to even being medically cleared to return,” McVay said. “He’s making good progress, but … I still think you’re anywhere between three and four weeks away ….
“I’ve got to be careful speaking in absolutes. I think it would be surprising if he was able to play again, but I don’t want to say there’s a zero percent chance.”
Kupp has 75 catches this season, six for touchdowns. Wide receiver Allen Robinson also is on injured reserve after season-ending foot surgery.
The absences of Kupp and Robinson have created opportunities for Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell.
Stafford, on injured reserve with what McVay has described as a spinal cord contusion, and Kupp are “extensions of the coaching staff right now,” McVay said.
The Rams (4-9) play the Green Bay Packers (5-8) on Monday night at Lambeau Field.
That will be Mayfield’s first start after he came off the bench and led the Rams to a 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday night.
About 48 hours after the Rams claimed Mayfield off waivers from the Carolina Panthers, he came on in relief of starter John Wolford in the first quarter. Mayfield engineered two fourth-quarter scoring drives, tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jefferson with 10 seconds left.
Five days later, Rams teammates were still raving about Mayfield’s performance.
“His competitive nature helped him get that job done — and helped us get that job done,” tight end Tyler Higbee said during a videoconference. “And it was impressive watching him out there and compete.
“Things didn’t go his way. Things didn’t go our way. He didn’t bat an eye. Kept competing and moved on to the next play.”
Mayfield completed 22 of 35 passes for 230 yards and the touchdown. During the game-winning drive, a pass-interference penalty against the Raiders nullified an interception and an unsportsmanlike penalty against the Raiders afforded Mayfield and the Rams extra chances.
Mayfield made key plays, delivering a 32-yard pass to Skowronek and the touchdown throw to Jefferson.
Safety Taylor Rapp sealed the victory with an interception, ending the Rams’ six-game losing streak.
The Rams rallied around Mayfield and the “the energy, the fire,” that he provided, Rapp said.
“The no-flinch, the no-back-down attitude,” Rapp said. “Can’t say enough how appreciative we are of that guy and how much respect we have for that guy.”
Mayfield and the Rams have a full week to prepare for the Packers. And for the first time in weeks, they will practice with momentum.
“Confidence can be a big thing in the NFL,” said Higbee, a seventh-year pro. “You get at a team rolling, that has confidence, you never know what can happen.”
Defensive lineman Aaron Donald sat out the last two games because of a high ankle sprain that did not require surgery. Asked whether Donald would return to practice this week, McVay said, “I wouldn’t rule that out.”… Wolford probably will be out this week because of a neck injury, McVay said. Safety Jordan Fuller (hamstring) “is making good progress,” McVay said. “Whether that means he actually will return to play is something we’ll talk about.”… The Rams are off Wednesday. They will resume preparations for the Packers on Thursday.