LOS ANGELES — A light rain fell while Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz practiced earlier this week.
This was Stafford’s first major test since he was sidelined with a sprained right thumb during the Rams’ game against the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 5. Stafford, in his 15th year as a pro, was wearing a soft brace on his right hand, but otherwise seemed undisturbed as he skipped a pass in preparation for Sunday’s home game against the Seattle Seahawks.
“It was kind of nice to be back out there and get my feet moving again, both literally and figuratively,” Stafford said.
It was former North Dakota State quarterback Wentz’s first real workout since signing last week. In his eighth year as a pro, he joins the Rams after playing five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one season each with the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Commanders.
“The hardest part is learning the playbook as quickly as humanly possible,” he said. “We’ve been in a weird situation the last few years. We’ve had to learn the playbook every year, but we’ve never had a season like this, so sometimes it feels like we’re drinking from a firehose. Sometimes”
“I’m just trying to accumulate as much as I can. But Stafford has been a great help, the coaches have been great, and I’m just trying to absorb it as quickly as possible.”
Stafford, 35, is scheduled to start against the Seahawks as the Rams (3-6) try to end a three-game losing streak. Coach Sean McVay said Stafford’s thumb condition won’t reduce his playbook.
“Please do not expect to be limited in our ability to operate as planned,” McVeigh said.
Stafford had eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions before being injured during a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on October 29.
Stafford said his right hand absorbed the contact on three plays. His final blow came when he caught a two-point conversion pass and fell to the ground, his thumb being pulled “in a direction that wasn’t fun,” he said.
Stafford tried but couldn’t get hold of the ball on the sideline. He was tested in the locker room and sat out most of the second half.
“I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it actually was,” he said of the injury. “So I’m glad it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”
Stafford is no stranger to injuries to his right thumb. In 2020, when he was with the Detroit Lions, he played the second half of the season in similar conditions. After being traded to the Rams, he underwent treatment to repair the damage before the 2021 season.
“I’ve done it before,” he said of playing through injury. “I can do it again.”
Stafford benefited from the off week, giving him extra time to heal. Players like offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and linebacker Ernest Jones were also rested during the week, allowing them to rehab their injuries.
“I’m a big fan of byes, especially at this point in my career,” Stafford said with a laugh. “Whenever it wants to show up, I’m ready for it. If you want to keep two, I’m open to that too.”
“It was definitely the right time for me and I think it’s the same for the team.”
After losing 20-3 to the Packers, the Rams waived backup Brett Rypien and signed Wentz, who finished last season as the manager’s No. 3 quarterback.
After the managers released him, Wentz spent months waiting to hear from another team. He said his agent suggested he spend a few days with former NFL coach Jon Gruden as training camp began.
“I just wanted to talk about football, study tape, have someone honestly criticize my game so I can get better,” Wentz said. “And just spending a few days with him was really fun and really rewarding and I felt like my mind was back in football mode a little bit.
“So I was grateful for his help.”
Once the season started, Wentz spent Monday waiting to hear from teams in need. He said he was throwing passes to his older brother and friends to keep him in shape.
In 2016, the Rams considered drafting Wentz with the first pick. They selected quarterback Jared Goff instead, and the Eagles took Wentz with the No. 2 pick.
Seven years later, the Rams finally came calling.
Wentz agreed to terms last Tuesday, signed with the Rams on Wednesday, and returned to Indianapolis on Friday to give birth to his third daughter. He’s happy to be back on an NFL roster.
“The NFL has a way of humbling you,” Wentz added. “I’m no dummy. I’ve seen it all. I know how this league works, and I don’t know how it was last year. I know it could have been over. And I didn’t know, ‘I haven’t played enough…’
“We all want to be players that play, but don’t get me wrong, I think everyone would be lying if they said otherwise. But we also know this is a difficult business. It’s a tough league and we just have to show up.” “As a team, it’s a blessing no matter what to be with them. So we’re grateful for the opportunity and we’ll do everything we can.” I’ll help you with that.”
Wentz is “eager to learn,” Stafford said.
“His talent and some of his success in this league is kind of obvious to me,” Stafford said. “So I’m happy to have him and I’m really happy for him to get a chance to come in and help us.”
It’s only been a few days, but McVay said the two quarterbacks are blending well.
“It’s really important to watch the interactions in the quarterback room and feel the trust that exists among the guys,” McVay said. “And Matthew is doing a great job of guiding us in that direction. Carson has a lot of experience and we’re seeing it go well so far.”
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