After nearly a week of continuing uncertainty about their roster, and how it might affect their chance to make a run to the NFC West title, the Rams got a double dose of good news Sunday.
Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who had been on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list since last Monday, was activated to the roster and will play Tuesday against the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium. Ramsey had been put on the list only hours before the Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals, the team that had the best record in the NFL.
“That’s a huge deal for us,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Ramsey’s return during a videoconference with reporters, “and I was ecstatic when I got the call that he was cleared.”
The Detroit Lions, with a big hand from former Rams quarterback Jared Goff, defeated the Cardinals (10-4) on Sunday, positioning the Rams (9-4) to move into a first-place tie with Arizona if they beat the Seahawks (5-8).
“Of course our players look at that kind of stuff,” McVay said, “but I think the focus and concentration is, ‘Let’s take care of our business.’ ”
Ramsey is the second star player in two days to return to the Rams’ roster.
On Saturday, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was among six players who came off a list that still includes more than 20 roster and practice-squad players. Running back Darrell Henderson also came off the list Saturday and is expected to share carries with Sony Michel, who was highly productive in Henderson’s place in victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona.
Outside linebacker Von Miller, safety Jordan Fuller and offensive lineman Rob Havenstein are starters who remain on the list.
With Ramsey sidelined against the Cardinals, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris used defensive backs David Long, Kareem Orr and Terrell Burgess to complement starting cornerback Darious Williams in the 30-23 victory.
But Ramsey’s versatility and influence on a game is nearly irreplaceable. So Morris and McVay were eager to welcome him back.
“The swagger, the game-day leadership he provides — just the presence,” McVay said. “When you’re around Jalen Ramsey, you just feel better about our chances as a team. He’s got that kind of effect.”
If Fuller is not cleared by Tuesday, Morris said Ramsey could assume his defensive signal-caller duties, though rookie linebacker Ernest Jones is regarded as the most likely candidate to do so.
Ramsey’s return strengthens a defense that against Arizona received a standout performance from its front — the best collective effort since Miller was acquired at the November trade deadline.
Aaron Donald tipped a pass that led to an interception by Jones, and the defensive tackle also amassed three sacks, a performance that earned him honors as the NFC defensive player of the week.
“He’s capable of that any day,” Morris said of Donald, adding, “He can do it again at any moment.”
Edge rusher Leonard Floyd intercepted a pass, nose tackle Greg Gaines recorded a sack, interior lineman A’Shawn Robinson played well, and Miller helped steer Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray into Donald.
Donald said the events of the last week, which included the Rams shutting down their Thousand Oaks facility for several days, produced an unexpected benefit.
“It was a mini bye week,” Donald said. “You got to stay off your feet, rest up a little bit, get some of the aches and pains out of your body a little bit more. ... I think it kind of helped us.”
The enhanced COVID-19 protocols, the roster moves precipitated by positive tests, and the NFL’s decision Friday to postpone the game scheduled for Sunday until Tuesday all made for a “wild” few days, Donald said.
While the team awaits test results that could enable other players to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Rams welcomed back running back Jake Funk and linebacker Travin Howard from injured reserve. Both are expected to play on special teams against the Seahawks.
“I’m just glad we got kind of some type of control, to the point where guys are coming back healthy and we’re able to get back on some type of little schedule and get to play some ball Tuesday,” Donald said.