The Rams held a walk-thru session on Wednesday at Cal Lutheran to kick off their preparation week for the Titans. Although the team traditionally held a full practice to start the week, head coach Sean McVay said converting to walk-thrus was the "smarter approach" — allowing players to be as fresh as possible come game day.
"As long as they continue to understand how important it is just to be locked in, great focus and concentration from a mental standpoint [in walk-thrus]," he said. "We feel like that's going to be the best thing and that's the approach we'll take this week again."
Los Angeles had some major injury news to report on Wednesday.
Kicker Greg Zuerlein — who was on pace for a historic season and had just been named to the 2018 Pro Bowl — has been placed on the injured/reserve list with a herniated disk. As such, he will be out for the remainder of the season.
McVay said Zuerlein will undergo back surgery on Thursday, according to the LA Times’ Lindsey Thiry. Although the back injury was something that had been an issue throughout the year, McVay reportedly said the staff was hoping to deal with it at the end of the season.
In addition to Zuerlein, five other Rams did not participate in the afternoon session. Linebacker Mark Barron, outside linebacker Connor Barwin, center John Sullivan, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth were given their usual veteran rest day and did not participate in the session.
Rounding out the team's injury report was outside linebacker Matt Longacre (back) who was a non-participant as well.
The Rams also announced several roster moves on Wednesday, placing both Zuerlein and quarterback Brandon Allen (back) onto the injured/reserve list. In corresponding moves, the team signed outside linebacker Kasim Edebali and kicker Sam Ficken.
Edebali originally signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College. He spent three years in New Orleans, recording 8.0 sacks and one forced fumble, before being signed by the Broncos in March. The Lions claimed the outside linebacker in November before waiving him last week.
Ficken went undrafted out of Penn State in 2015, but has spent time with both the Jaguars and the Chiefs. Although he has not attempted a field goal in the NFL, the kicker completed 97.3 percent of his extra point attempts while in college and was 24-of-29 on field goal attempts in his senior year.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUCCESS
The Rams have five players headed to the 2018 Pro Bowl. And while all three phases will be represented in January, three of the players — Zuerlein, punter Johnny Hekker, and wide receiver Pharoh Cooper — all hail from Los Angeles' special teams unit.
"I think that's a real credit to our team to be able to have those five guys representing," McVay said Wednesday. "But, specifically to have those guys represented on the special teams, it's all started with the leadership of coordinator John Fassel."
Fassell has been with the franchise since 2012 and has consistently put forward a dominant special teams unit. This season has proven no different than the last.
Cooper currently ranks second in the league with 28.2 yards per kickoff return and 13.4 yards per punt return. Hekker leads the NFC in both average yards per punt (47.6) and net yards per punt (45.6). And Zuerlein was the NFL's top scorer through 14 games.
"A huge honor," Hekker said. "It was kind of a deal where I am the product of everyone else around me being selfless in their approach and working really hard. I'm not out there doing it by myself, so I have to tip my hat to the guys around me."
"We had everyone — the punter, kicker, and then me as a return specialist," Cooper said. "That says a lot, especially about coach 'Bones' as far as what he does for us."
Hekker will be making his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl this year, while Cooper and Zuerlein are first-year selections. For Cooper, the honor has been especially significant considering this has been his first season as the team's primary return specialist.
"Very proud," Cooper said. "That was one of my goals I set back when I was named the kick returner in the beginning of the year and then punt returner midway. To reach that goal is a big accomplishment. But I'm not going to stop — I'm going to keep going from here."
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR
Christmas came a bit early the year for the Rams offensive linemen. On Tuesday, the group got a holiday gift from quarterback Jared Goff, who surprised the unit with Yeti coolers filled with various "treats."
"Jared is a great gift-giver," right tackle Rob Havenstein said. "It's the holidays and anything you receive from someone else is obviously going to be very nice. He didn't have to do that, but very grateful for him."
Right guard Jamon Brown said the gift goes to show what a good relationship the unit has built with their quarterback. And although he wasn't expecting anything from Goff, Brown said it felt good "to get a token of appreciation from one of your teammates." "Jared did a great job," Brown said with a smile. "We didn't know it was coming and you don't really do this for anything in return, but obviously he surprised us all with this gift and we're very grateful. I would give Jared an A+."