THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Not long after tearing his Achilles on July 20, Rams running Cam Akers called his mom and cried.
An injury like that can be emotionally devastating. But after two days, Akers was done feeling sad and shifted his focus toward coming back and be the same, or a better, version of himself.
Less than six months later, Akers made his season debut in Week 18 against the 49ers.
"The fear of not coming back the same me was all the motivation I needed," Akers said during a video conference Thursday. "The fear of not coming back or being better than before I got hurt. No feeling sorry yourself at that point, just two days in. So I had to retrain my mind, retrain my thought process and just attack (the process)."
Akers said it's a "blessing" to make such a remarkably quick return from that injury, praising the Rams training staff for the plan they mapped out for him and ensuring he stuck to it "to a T." But like the immediate reaction he had to the injury, there were still some challenging days despite the change in mindset.
It wasn't until a month into his rehab that Akers realized returning this season was a realistic goal, and those first four weeks were tough. During that time, Akers said a person can't really walk or do much, but he also understood "this too will pass" and that it was only a small obstacle in his path.
"A lot of crying, a lot of good days, a lot of bad days, but never losing sight of where I wanted to be, where I'm trying to go," Akers said.
Akers was designated for return on Dec. 23, then activated off of the Non-Football Injury List to the active roster two days later. After being inactive for Week 17, he was active against the 49ers and played 20 percent of the offensive snaps in his season debut.
"It was good to just get out there and play real football," Rams head coach Sean McVay said during a video conference Wednesday. "I didn't think there were a lot of opportunities or space where he could really demonstrate anything, but just getting your feet wet, getting a couple touches in the run game and in the pass game will be really beneficial. He'll be another week more comfortable and then hopefully we can play better and make some better decisions from the things that I can do. Then we can go execute better, to give Cam a chance to shine."
While Akers didn't put up big numbers, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said it was big for Akers to get some reps and build comfort.
"I think it was really important for him to get out there, get some snaps under his belt, take a couple hits, catch the ball out of the back field, run the football some," Stafford said. "He did a nice job and I just can't tell you how proud I am of that guy. And that's an unbelievable feat that he's been able to just be available in any regard and he looks as good as he ever looked."
And in perhaps one of the most encouraging signs, Akers' thought process after getting tackled for the first time was what one might expect.
"Nothing about the injury, I was thinking about how I could've broken the tackle," said Akers, who added there were no flashbacks to the injury, aches, pains or hiccups afterward.
With that important first game under Akers' belt, the Rams will look to get him more involved within the natural flow of the offense.
"We were able to get him going, get him some touches here and there – both in the run and pass game. And it'll be a continued priority for us," Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said during a video conference Thursday. "He's a playmaker. We view him as one of the many guys on the offensive side for us that we want to try to feature and allow the ball to be in their hands and come to them in the rhythm and timing of our offense and no different this week. It's just good to have some snaps under his belt in that competitive environment that he can build off of."