ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – As Cooper Kupp worked his way back from a hamstring injury that had sidelined him since Aug. 2, the Rams wide receiver said the goal was to be ready Week 1.
Not simply to return to practice that first week of the regular season, Kupp made it clear, but to be able to play, because of how he personally defines what "ready" looks like to him.
"I ended up feeling it really pretty early on, a little tug there (on) the fifth or sixth day (of training camp)," Kupp said after Thursday's joint practice with the Broncos. "And then it was really like, the ultimate goal is to be ready to go Week 1. That doesn't mean coming back Week 1, it means being ready to play, being able to get the reps in with these guys and build that chemistry with that (quarterback) Matthew (Stafford), and really just being out there seeing things again, getting all that sequencing, that patterning, all that stuff down. There's just a fine line of those two things, but man, it feels good to be back out there again competing with them."
To that end, Kupp – who returned to practice earlier this week and participated in both joint practices with the Broncos – said he feels like he's on track for the Rams' Week 1 regular season game against the Seahawks in Seattle.
"I feel like I am," Kupp said. "I definitely felt, the first two days coming back here earlier this week, like you're rushing things. You feel like your hands and feet aren't working together, things are moving fast. Seeing the patterns of the defense, you feel like you're behind the snap mentally, which is never a place you want to be. You want to be ahead of that thing so you can play fast."
In order to be able to do that, it was important to Kupp to get live reps before Week 1.
Kupp said coming back this week showed him the importance of repetition and going through and feeling those live reps, because from Day 1 to Day 4 of his return, the game slows down progressively.
"So that's why I'm saying going out there Week 1 would be tough, not having the opportunity to see those reps, have those reps and have that kind of stuff in your back pocket in being able to see those patterns," Kupp said. "Feel good about the path we're on now."
Rams head coach Sean McVay said Kupp has looked "really good" this week. While the team wanted to be limited with the work Kupp did on Thursday, Monday through Thursday overall represented a ramp-up of Kupp's workload, which was what they wanted to be able to do.
"If there's anybody that's going to do everything in his power to take care of himself, to take care of his body, to be ready mentally and physically to peak on the 10th of September, it's going to be Cooper," McVay said. "I know that he's been working through some different things throughout the course of this camp, but he's a mentally tough guy and he's going to be a hugely important part of our team this year. Looking forward to getting him back out here on a consistent basis."