Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam has been itching to get on the field.
He couldn't participate in most aspects of Los Angeles' offseason program because of his college quarter dates. And after making an impression during the first couple days of training camp, Ebukam suffered a hamstring injury in the Rams' first padded practice.
At long last, the fourth-round pick was cleared to practice in late August, and made his professional debut against the Packers on Thursday night.
"It felt good to be back out there on the field and try to show what I can do, just to prove that I'm valuable to this team in some way, shape, or form," Ebukam said after the game. "I'm just thankful for everything that the coaches have given me, and all the treatment that I've gotten. And I felt good out on the field."
"He's been a guy who's shown up in practice when he's been available — unfortunately missing the offseason program with the school, and then he has the hamstring early on," head coach Sean McVay said. "But you certainly feel him as a rusher. He's got that explosion. He's got the quick twitch."
Ebukam played 31 snaps in Los Angeles' matchup with Green Bay on Thursday, which works out to 46 percent of the plays. With it being his first live NFL action, Ebukam said he felt he did "OK."
"There's definitely things that I need to fix in my pass-rush game. But other than that, it honestly just felt good to go out and run on the field," Ebukam said. "I'm very thankful for that, man."
Check out the best photos from the Rams' preseason matchup with the Packers in Green Bay.
While he hasn't been on the field much, Ebukam has been active in the classroom. He gave credit to assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry and assistant linebackers coach Chris Shula for keeping him engaged and up on everything the Rams were doing defensively. But there is still work to be done to get him caught up.
"Once you get the playbook down, you've got to keep on top of it because there's always going to be changes weekly," Ebukam said. "And if you're able to go through the mental grind, when you come back, you should be up to speed with everything."
"I think he'd like to have gotten more reps," McVay said. "But he's a very conscientious guy. I think coach Barry and coach Shula have done an excellent job of keeping him up to speed from a mental standpoint. But there's no substitution for getting the actual reps in games, in practice. And it is a little bit of a catch-up mode and mentality. But I think he's done a good job, and feel good about Samson."
While the games Ebukam missed didn't count, he said he's never been out for that kind of extended period before. That made the entire process even more frustrating for the 22 year old.
"Usually I'm playing through stuff," Ebukam said. "I've already had two surgeries on my shoulders, and I played through all of them. But the hamstring is just different because you can't run. And in football, if you can't run, you can't play. So that was definitely the longest I've been out for a football injury.
"That's one of the worst things that can happen to a football player — not being able to play, not being able to show your talent out on the field," Ebukam added. "And just knowing that it's not your fault — it's an accident, it happens. And just knowing that you could help the team out somehow, some way, and you're not able to do it — it really sucks. But you've just got to take it a day at a time and just keep faith that when your time comes, you've got to do something. You've got to shine."
That's what Ebukam is primed to do as the Rams move to games that count, starting with Sept. 10 against the Colts.
"He's a guy that is an exciting part of that Sam linebacker rotation," McVay said, "where he'll be able to spell Connor Barwin, ideally, moving into the regular season."
"I can't thank God enough for giving me this opportunity that I have right now," Ebukam said. "And I've just got to make the best of it."