Had he not chosen to dedicate himself to football, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford might have been a top baseball prospect.
Now Stafford — and the defending Super Bowl champions — are attempting to work through an elbow issue more closely associated with pitchers.
Stafford is dealing with tendinitis, a person with knowledge of the situation said Thursday. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The Rams are trying to manage Stafford’s lingering elbow pain, raising more questions than answers as they prepare for their Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills — and a bid to become the first team in nearly two decades to win back-to-back championships.
“It is a tricky deal,” coach Sean McVay said Thursday after practice, adding, “It’s a little bit abnormal for a quarterback. You know some of this stuff is things that MLB pitchers deal with and so it is something that we’re kind of learning about on the fly.”
Asked if a Thursday report that Stafford was suffering from tendinitis was accurate, McVay did not confirm or deny.
“I don’t know what you would really call it,” he said. “I just know the elbow issue.”
Stafford, 34, looked perfectly fine during his limited work Thursday at UC Irvine. During a seven-on-seven drill, he dropped back and delivered a 50-yard pass to receiver Tutu Atwell.
That kind of play no doubt caused McVay to breathe a sigh of relief. His veteran quarterback looked every bit as smooth and strong as he did last season when he led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory.
But one long pass is not the long play for Stafford, McVay and a team attempting to repeat.
Stafford played through arm pain last season and still passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions. A month after engineering a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, the Rams gave Stafford an extension that includes $120 million in guarantees.
Stafford received an injection in his elbow in the offseason and did not throw passes during organized-team activity workouts during spring.
He told reporters last week that his arm was “coming along” and that he was “kind of right where I want to be, and just continue to get it feeling better. Get it stronger.”
But the elbow pain persists, according to McVay.
“We tried some things in the offseason, however you want to look at, some of the different treatments that we had tried, and I don’t know that it got different results than what we had hoped,” McVay said. “But I think we were hoping that some of the pain would have been alleviated — and that’s really the goal.”
In 2018 and 2019, McVay attempted to manage star running back Todd Gurley’s knee issue but this is a first for the Rams’ sixth-year coach.
“It is something I’ve never navigated through as a coach with a quarterback.”
After Stafford took limited snaps during full-team drills Monday, McVay said the 14th-year pro’s workload would be lessened. Following Tuesday’s off day, Stafford did not throw a pass on Wednesday, and McVay said the quarterback would be held out of team drills until at least when the Rams return to their Thousand Oaks facility late next week.
But Stafford participated in individual drills Thursday.
“He’s doing rehab every single day,” McVay said, “and then, hopefully, I’ll have some clarity on, ‘All right, it’s getting the results that we want, he’s feeling better and we’ll go see our guy do his thing on Sept. 8.’ ”
Receiver Jacob Harris will be sidelined for a week or two because of a groin strain, McVay said. … Receiver Cooper Kupp participated in the early part of practice but was given the latter part off, McVay said. … Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis was given a rest day, McVay said.