INGLEWOOD, Calif. – With every workout clip posted to his Instagram, the thought began creeping into many people's heads.
Look at how Cam Akers looks. Could he return this season?
In October, Rams head coach Sean McVay said they hadn't ruled that out. Two months later, the Rams running back accomplished the seemingly improbable, returning to practice five months after tearing his Achilles.
It's a remarkable achievement for Akers, a testament to a work ethic that has impressed teammates and coaches.
"It's been awesome having him back," Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said after Thursday's practice at SoFi Stadium. "You see him, and I think it's provided some excitement for the guys on our team. It's one thing to say, 'Hey, he's back, and that's remarkable,' but the guys know and the guys have seen him over the course of since the injury happened. There's a lot of lonely work, lonely hours put in with our training staff, our strength staff, and for a young player to commit himself like that like he has, I think he's earned a lot of respect from his teammates, coming back from an injury like that in the timeline he has."
Akers officially returned to practice on Dec. 24 and has participated in each of the Rams' practices since then. Not all of the practices since then have been full-speed, so it's been difficult to get a gage of how Akers has looked, but simply having him on the practice field has been great for his teammates.
"We're happy to have him out there," Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said during a Dec. 29 video conference. "As far as what I'm seeing from him, really only have we gone fast one time where he's been out there. He's doing his own stuff on the side and looking good and all that kind of stuff, but last week he got a little bit of run in there and he looked good to me. So just happy for him more than anything."
Exactly when Akers returns to action remains to be seen. And, as much as his teammates are excited to have him back, they also don't want him to rush his return.
Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who described Akers as "my little brother," pushed back against the perception that Akers is already back or being rushed back. Ramsey said it's a process and a journey Akers will continue to go on, and with Akers having a long career ahead of him, he doesn't want him to feel that way, either.
"He's working extremely hard," Ramsey said after Thursday's practice at SoFi Stadium. "He's gifted, obviously, God-gifted. And when the timing's right and when he's feeling good, we'll definitely love to have him back. Nothing that he does surprises me or amazes me because I know what type of guy he is. He gifted, honestly. He gifted by God, and he works extremely hard. He a dog. So he's been attacking the whole process along the way and he'll continue to do that – that's one thing I know about him, for sure."
McVay said Thursday that the timetable was always potentially either Week 18 against the 49ers or the playoffs for Akers' return, but they're continuing to take things one day at a time.
"Not ready to officially rule him out for this week (against the Ravens), yet, either," McVay said. "But that was kind of always the timeline we've had in place. He has definitely exceeded our expectations to even be available at this point."