Cooper Kupp Dealing With Mysterious Hamstring Injury
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
LA Rams Reporter: “Coach McVay, *Insert Star Player Name* has missed *insert amount of time* due to *insert injury.* Any updates?
McVay: Yeah, he’s taking it day by day, taking all the advice the training staff has and hopefully the recovery goes well, but this is something we’ve never seen before.
Of course, you have. It’s essentially what Sean McVay said about Matthew Stafford‘s mysterious elbow injury and Todd Gurley‘s even more mysterious knee injury(s). In Gurley’s case, his undefinable injury spelled the end of his career. With Stafford, it may or may not have affected his performance in 2022. We will never know.
McVay is now following his ‘modus operandi’ with Cooper Kupp‘s hamstring injury, saying “I just know that it doesn’t follow the standard protocol for when you’re re-aggravating a soft-tissue injury. Trying to continue to get a grasp on exactly what it is.”
According to reporting by Jourdan Rodrigue, McVay has acknowledged that Kupp has sought to find clarity about the issue from doctors in Minnesota, but won’t go into details. He did go so far as to say that it potentially involved a nerve issue.
So what are we to make of McVay’s obfuscation of Kupp’s injury this time around?
What is known is that he is dealing with a hamstring issue, one that has occurred on his left leg. The same appendage in which has been operated on for a torn ACL in 2018 and received a ‘tightrope procedure’ late in 2022. We also know that there are hundreds of hamstring issues across football every year. This level of confusion about the rehab process should make your ears perk up a bit. Also, when hearing the words ‘doctor’s and Minnesota together,’ the Mayo Clinic comes to mind, but that is getting a little too far down the speculative rabbit hole.
What can be inferred, though, is that he is a more serious injury than the run-of-the-mill hamstring strain that athletes suffer from on a regular basis. Yet, it is at the end of the day a soft tissue injury. Not, lets say, a degenerative arthritis in the knee. That is to say, it probably falls somewhere between how Stafford’s and Gurley’s injuries were handled. Is this a career-ending threat? Unlikely. Will it likely need to be managed for a part, if not all season long? Yes. (But, I’m also not a doctor. But I would not be surprised by the latter)
The Rams Without Cooper Kupp
To say that Cooper Kupp is Stafford’s favorite target is an understatement. In their first year together, Kupp set franchise records in several receiver counting stats on his way to an NFL triple crown. Stafford targeted Kupp on 32 percent of his passing attempts during the regular and post-seasons. That percentage ticked up to nearly 34 percent in 2022, a league high.
In the 10 games that Stafford played in 2022, he targeted Tyler Higbee on about 20 percent of targets, Allen Robinson at 15 percent (shockingly), Ben Skowronek at 13 percent. Van Jefferson was out with an injury for much of those games.
So who will be Stafford’s next favorite receiver while Kupp is absent? Van Jefferson is the proverbial ‘next man up,’ but he has yet to prove that he is more than a #3 receiver. Tutu Atwell will have a larger part in the offense, but it is hard to imagine him filling all the roles that Cooper Kupp filled.
That leaves the two polar ends that are left on the Rams depth chart. NFL journeyman, Demarcus Robinson and, rookie preseason darling, Puka Nacua. Robinson was dynamic during training camp, as was Nacua, who also flashed against the Chargers in the preseason. Robinson has proved to be a viable receiver in the league, but nowhere near the level of Cooper Kupp. Further, his noteworthy camp was spent catching passes from Stetson Bennett with the second team. Nacua could be the real deal, or not. He has yet to play a real down of football.
When judging this unit, Cooper Kupp’s absence points out what Les Snead has already expressed about him. He is a pillar of the team. And not just in a figurative sense. This offense may be OK without him, but they can’t be average this season. This team needs to score points to be competitive. Without Cooper Kupp it gets much harder to do that.