When the Rams decided to sign veteran running back C.J. Anderson, they had to make a move to open a roster spot. Based on the way Los Angeles constructs its 46-man gameday roster, the team decided to let go of wide receiver Pharoh Cooper.
"It was a tough decision," head coach Sean McVay said Wednesday. "He was a Pro Bowl player and really, as a returner in both kick and punt return last year. Was really just impressed with the way that he's handled himself coming back from the injury. It was really more just a numbers thing than anything else when you figure, how do you get your '46' up."
Cooper was an integral piece of Los Angeles' 2017 NFC West title team, becoming a Pro Bowler as a return specialist. He also was a first-team All-Pro as a kick returner, and second-team All-Pro as a punt returner.
But this year, the 2016 fourth-round pick suffered an ankle injury requiring surgery during the Week 1 victory over the Raiders. And while he was able to return from injured reserve to return kicks, L.A. continued to have JoJo Natson return punts — inherently limiting Cooper's role.
"It wasn't anything that he didn't do," McVay said. "Pharoh couldn't have handled it in a more class manner. He's a great competitor and I wish him nothing but the best."
But after Cooper was placed on waivers Tuesday, the Cardinals were awarded the wideout on Wednesday. And that could put an interesting wrinkle in both team's game plans, given what Cooper knows about Los Angeles' offense.
However, passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Shane Waldron threw a bit of cold water on the theory that Cooper could reveal critical, secretive details to Arizona this week.
"As far as when you get into some of those tactical approaches, there's some teams in this league where those signals or some of those things have been the same for 15 years moving forward. Some of those things, I think, are overvalued," Waldron said. "I think you got to go out there and play football and execute at a high level and if you start worrying too much about hand signals or code words, stuff like that, you're not allowing yourself to play fast. We still feel that we can operate as we've been operating."
With Cooper now elsewhere, McVay said that either returner JoJo Natson or safety Blake Countess will return kicks for L.A. for the remainder of the season — depending on which way special teams coordinator John Fassel wants to go.