After a few long weeks, wide receiver Robert Woods is set to return on Sunday.
The wideout injured his shoulder late in the Rams' Week 11 loss to the Vikings and has been sidelined ever since. And while Los Angeles has averaged 246 yards passing and 31 points over the last three games, there's no doubt Woods' return will provide a lift to the Rams' offense.
"Getting Robert back out there just with what he provides from a leadership standpoint, obviously the production that he was having before he went out with the injury — so that's a big boost for us," head coach Sean McVay said Wednesday. "We're on track to have him back and that will be good."
"Long process trying to get healthy, trying to get back," Woods said. "Guys did well prepping up to this, getting wins and everything. And now I'm finally back and trying to finish it off with the team."
Woods said he felt fortunate his injury wasn't worse, since he knows it could have been. But because it didn't require surgery, he's now able to play in the final stretch of the regular season.
"Just being able to bounce back and being able to recover quick enough to come back for the season I think is a big testament to our training staff and to our coaches," he added.
Woods did a bit of work in practice last week, but not much. The wide receiver said he was mainly running routes and trying to keep his chemistry and timing with quarterback Jared Goff in tact. Woods was listed as questionable for last Sunday's contest against Philadelphia, but said he didn't play because the club was being particularly cautious.
"It felt good, just going out there running routes and everything," Woods said of his shoulder. "It's a long season. We're looking forward to extra games — [though] you've got to win some. Just trying to make sure I'm healthy and make sure I'm full go to last."
That's where Woods is now, as he said he doesn't feel like there are any mental hurdles to clear in order to feel comfortable with his shoulder not only in practice, but also in the game. The Rams pared down Wednesday's practice to only a walk-thru, and Woods was listed as taking a limited number of reps.
"I feel like the movement, everything is there. Everything's good and ready, so I feel like there's no [sense of] not trusting it," Woods said. "I've been in practice a little bit last week, and then starting to go this week — I'm confident, very confident in it."
While the Rams have continued to score plenty of points in Woods' absence, both McVay and Goff noted that the wide receiver's presence adds a lot for the stretch run.
"I think the fortunate thing is we've got good depth at that position. I think what it offered was an opportunity for a variety of guys to kind of step up as opposed to just really one person filling that void," McVay said." I think when you just look at what Robert has provided for our team, he's been such a great player for us, great person, all the things that you're looking for. Certainly, we have a lot of confidence in our receiving group, but getting Robert back gives us a boost and we're a better team when Robert is on the field."
"I think he's just such a good example every day," Goff said. "He sets a great example for the guys. As far as in the game, he does so much stuff that you can't really see. I think just his feel for the game and his understanding for leverages and coverages and everything. He sees the game the right way and that'll be nice to have back, for sure."
Those factors can make a significant difference, particularly on the road against a division rival. While Woods caught five passes for 66 yards against the Seahawks in Week 5, he had a monster game at CenturyLink Field for the Bills in 2016. On Monday Night Football in a hostile environment, Woods caught 10 passes for 162 yards, marking one of the best games in his career.
"The environment helped — loud environment, fun environment, competitive game, competitive team," Woods said. "Just go out there and want to go against good competitors, good opponents. And when they play well, you play well, and the team plays well."
Seattle's secondary looks significantly different than it did back in Week 5. Cornerback Richard Sherman is on injured reserve after rupturing his Achilles. And safety Kam Chancellor is expected to be out for the remainder of the season with a neck injury.
But the Seahawks have still been productive, bringing back corner Byron Maxwell. And they still have the safety often called the catalyst of the "Legion of Boom," Earl Thomas.
"Earl is pretty much their heart," Woods said. "We know Kam and Sherman are big contributors to that as well, but Earl is really their heart. He's controlling the whole secondary, flying over, getting guys in place — making plays, making other people's play. But that's just how he plays. He's been their heart, he still is their heart. Got a lot of different guys stepping in — Maxwell coming back. But I would say Earl is still pretty much their heart. He's still back there."
And with Woods back, the Rams will now have their full slate of offensive weapons to attack that strong secondary. The wide receiver sounded eager to put the injury behind him and just on to football.
"I'm good. I'm ready for Sunday," Woods said. "I've been waiting on this."