Matthew Stafford won’t be participating in team drills, for now

Rams training camp in Irvine, CA.

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The issue of quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s elbow discomfort continues to make things very uncomfortable at Rams training camp, even as coach Sean McVay tries to glass-half-full his way through talking about the situation..

On Wednesday, McVay explained at the outset of a press conference that Stafford won’t be participating in team drills, for now.

“This is part of the plan that we feel like is in his best interest,” McVay said. “So it’s a great opportunity for John Wolford and Bryce [Perkins] to be able to get a lot more reps than they would otherwise. Matthew’s going to stay engaged and that’s the plan that we think is best right now.”

McVay declined to call it a setback. But how could it be anything but a setback to have the starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion not participating in team drills at training camp?

“It’s consistent with what’s been going on,” McVay said. “It’s just more of, when you really look at the totality of it, want to try to have him operate in as little as pain as possible. I think anytime that you’ve played as long and are as tough as he is, I don’t know if you’re ever truly pain free but the goal would be for September 8 and really looking towards 17 games then hopefully some games after that if we earn that opportunity. That’s kind of the perspective and the big picture approach that we want to be able to take. I don’t know that I would feel as comfortable taking that approach if it wasn’t for the experience that he’s accumulated and knowing how intentional he is about staying up to speed with his mental and his physical work that he can do in the absence of some of the stuff in the team settings.”

How concerned is McVay that this issue will linger into the regular season?

“You could [have that concern],” McVay said. “I think that’s one of those things that we talk about where, ‘Hey, all we can do is what we can control.’ We feel like this is kind of the best approach to be able to take. Is there a possibility that that conversation occurs? Sure. But based on the medical experts and the plan in talking with Matthew, this is what we think is best. I am optimistic that it’ll give us the best chance for him to feel as good as possible. Would you say, ‘Hey, you’d love him to have no issues and be out here playing and getting all these reps.’ Of course. But this is the thing that we think is best. This is one of those deals where you kind of take your own advice where, ‘Hey, let’s just be right here in the moment, take it a day at a time,’ and I thought we got better as a team today and we’re getting some encouraging things. I think you want to be careful to say, ‘Okay, well it’s just been a couple days,’ but I think for us being able to really give it a week, two weeks, is where you give it enough time to really see… ‘Okay, is this new plan that we’ve implemented getting the results, that we’re hunting up.’ I think everybody feels good about that and that’s the plan that we’re going to go with for the next couple weeks.”

McVay said he “doesn’t think” there’s a scenario that entails Stafford skipping all team activities until the week of preparation commences for the opener against the Bills.

“What we’ve really said right now is we will really take it over these next couple weeks, really until we leave here because we’ve got this four-day block, and then another three days before you end up going back to [Cal Lutheran],” McVay said. “So we’ve kind of taken the approach that we’ll reevaluate once we get there prior to that first preseason game, and then see where we’re at there and I’ll have updates for you guys accordingly.”

Obviously, Stafford would prefer that this not be the situation.

“He wants to be out there and do everything,” McVay said, “but that’s where you got to say, ‘All right, let’s really take a step back. What do we think is the best way to follow our own advice and be as healthy as we can and ready to go for September 8?’ That was really what I thought would be best as a competitor. He’s always going to want to continue to be out here, be with his teammates. But he is so intentional with his approach that you feel good about that. That’s kind of the situation that we’re in, so we’ll deal with it the best we can.”

Bottom line? Stafford’s elbow — which kept him from throwing at all in the offseason — continues to be an issue. For now, they’re trying to find a way to get him ready to go without making it worse. It remains to be seen whether this approach will properly get him ready, and whether the limited workload will avoid making things worse.

Either way, it’s definitely something to continue to monitor for the Rams. The road back to the Super Bowl becomes a lot harder to traverse if Stafford can’t throw the way he’d like, or if he ultimately can’t play at all.

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