The Los Angeles Rams have played all season without their starting running back, making it work using their depth and a well-timed trade. But a reinforcement is on the way.
General manager Les Snead told NFL.com that the plan is to have Cam Akers, who tore his Achilles in mid-July and was slated to miss the entire 2021 season, back for the playoffs. It sounded impossible when the whispers began midseason, but now it is no longer considered that crazy.
Akers returned to practice this week just five months after the horrific injury, and Snead -- who spoke on Friday -- was impressed. Akers was activated off injured reserve on Saturday, but he won't play today against the Minnesota Vikings.
"If you watched him do stuff with the performance staff (Thursday), you would think he could carry the ball 40 times on Sunday," Snead said over the phone. "The plan is to implement him back into practice settings and make sure he can make football moves, rather than just observing. And from there, it's how that Achilles recovers. We'll be smart about it."
The Rams make the playoffs if they beat or tie the Vikings today or if the Eagles and Saints each lose or tie. Could a player, especially one as talented as Akers, be a factor come playoff time?
"That's our vision," Snead said. "He's really day to day now. Based on everything he's done now and how he's looked, I would take that bet."
Coach Sean McVay raised some eyebrows in October, telling The Athletic that, "If we are able to make the playoffs, the expectation is that Cam would be available to play." McVay said this week: "It's not something that he's going to be ready to go this week. It's going to be a progressive build."
As a rookie, Akers rushed for 625 yards and 4.3 yards per rush, setting himself up to be the starter. After the Achilles tear, Los Angeles had Darrell Henderson and traded for former Patriots running back Sony Michel. Both have held up better than expected.
But adding Akers would be huge. Snead said there were times during his rehab when it appeared Akers really was on track to return. No one was willing to say for sure, but there were signs.
"Each step along the way, there were moments were it was like, 'Is this normal?' " Snead said. "For whatever reason, the rehab ... he just worked his ass off. He really worked and he's got some genetic gifts. All of the sudden, he was a week ahead. Then four weeks ahead. Then a month ahead. All pretty amazing."
The team activated Akers with three games to go, and one reason was to lock in a year of benefits and pension for Akers. He needs to be on the roster three games for that to happen.