No cause for alarm, Rams coach Sean McVay has cautioned.
Or is there?
Two days after McVay said quarterback Matthew Stafford was still feeling pain in his right arm and that his workload would be reduced, the 14th-year pro did not throw a pass during Wednesday’s workout.
Check that: He did toss the ball left-handed before practice began.
“This was part of the plan,” McVay said.
The goal is to get the 34-year-old Stafford to the Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills — and beyond — with little or no discomfort in his throwing arm, McVay said.
As part of the Rams plan, McVay said Stafford would not participate in full-team drills during the next three days of practice at UC Irvine, or during practices next week before the Rams return to Thousand Oaks.
“Anytime that you’ve played as long and are as tough as he is, I don’t know if you’re ever truly pain-free,” McVay said. “But the goal would be for September 8 and, really looking toward 17 games and then hopefully some games after that if we earn that opportunity.
“That’s kind of the perspective, the big-picture approach we want to be able to take.”
Stafford is coming off a Super Bowl LVI victory that earned him an extension that includes $120 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com. During 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions and one with the Rams, Stafford has thrown more than 7,000 passes during the regular season and playoffs, according to profootballreference.com.
So, Stafford probably doesn’t need many training camp practice reps to be ready for the Bills.
But the condition of Stafford’s right arm is an obvious concern for a team aiming to become the first in nearly two decades to win consecutive Super Bowl titles.
Last season, Stafford played through pain and passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions. If he had not experienced a turnover-plagued, three-game stretch of defeats, he might have been an MVP candidate at season’s end.
Despite receiving an offseason injection in his arm and throwing no passes during organized team activity workouts during the spring, he is not pain-free.
On Wednesday, Stafford handed off the ball a few times during individual drills. He them moved to another field, took phantom snaps and worked on dropping back and rolling out. He also did drills under the watchful eye of a member of the Rams sports science team.
But he did not lift his right hand above his head.
Is McVay concerned that, despite the plan, Stafford still could have the same arm issue when the season starts?
“Is there a possibility that that conversation occurs? Sure,” McVay said. “But based on the medical experts and the plan in talking with Matthew, this is what we think is best.”
In the last few days, the Rams received unspecified “encouraging signs” that their plan was working, McVay said.
But time will tell.
“Being able to really give it a week, two weeks is where you give it enough time to really see, ‘OK, is this new plan that we’ve implemented getting the results that we’re hunting up?’ ” he said.
Backup John Wolford has been taking first-team snaps in Stafford’s place. Wolford was not surprised when he stepped into the role Monday.
“I think that was the plan from the get-go,” he said. “We knew training camp’s long, and Stafford’s played for what is year 16 or whatever, so there’s no reason to drive him into the ground.”
Star receiver Cooper Kupp did not sound worried about Stafford’s ability to start the season with limited training camp reps.
“He’s played very high-level football for a long time — he’s going to be able to throw the rock,” Kupp said, adding, “He’s still as engaged as ever and, whenever that time comes when he’s able to be out there and throw the ball, I know he’s going to be ready to go.”
Receiver Van Jefferson had left knee surgery Tuesday. McVay said “there’s a possibility” Jefferson could be available for the opener. “That will be something that I’ll have a better feel for as he really starts getting in the rehab,” he said. … Star defensive lineman Aaron Donald was given the day off, McVay said.