Cautious Rams try to balance rest, reps in preseason

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay gestures from the sideline during the second half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay gestures from the sideline during the second half of the team’s preseason NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Sean McVay has been as cautious as any coach in the NFL when it comes to holding players out of preseason practices and games to make sure they are healthy for the regular season.

However, there is a balance between vigilance and preparation, and that is something the Los Angeles Rams are trying to navigate right now.

That fine line was evident in practice Tuesday, with running back Darrell Henderson Jr. participating on a limited basis one day after spraining his thumb.

“It’s important to really have all hands on deck, but I think certain guys have accumulated more experience than others,” McVay said. “You don’t ever want to pigeonhole yourself into a one-size-fits-all approach, but with Darrell, I think it is important to get him out here.”

Henderson was integrated into team drills despite having his left thumb in a cast and wearing a red no-contact jersey. The third-year tailback carried the ball in his right hand and even caught a pass out of the backfield one-handed.

It was the second injury scare this month for Henderson, who is expected to start with Cam Akers out for the season because of a torn Achilles tendon. Henderson ran into a teammate and jammed his right hand two weeks ago during training camp at UC Irvine, briefly forcing him out of practice.

McVay said it was important for Henderson to get back to work so quickly, and the format of a practice with limited contact made it safe for him to do it.

“I think you want to be able to continue to accumulate that experience,” McVay said. “Really, if you can push it in a way that’s reflective of not making the injury any worse, that’s something that we wanted to do. And credit to Darrell, he was out here today really pushing it.”

Henderson wasn’t the only young player back in action. Second-year outside linebacker Terrell Lewis got some work in after ongoing issues with his surgically repaired knee had mostly kept him out of training camp.

If Lewis feels good coming out of the session, he could be available to participate in a scrimmage on Thursday.

“He’s dealt with a lot, and being able to push through so it was good to be able to get him back out here,” McVay said. “And it’s kind of a day-to-day thing so we’ll see how his knee responds to getting a little bit more work that he’s got in the last month, so hopefully it doesn’t flare up.”

At the other end of the experience spectrum, 14-year veteran DeSean Jackson was largely a spectator with McVay wanting to make sure the wide receiver is ready to go when the Rams host the Chicago Bears in Week 1.

Jackson has played in eight games over the past two years, so the Rams have taken a measured approach with his workload coming into this season to avoid any potential soft tissue injuries.

With a “speed guy at 34 years old, 35, however (old he is),” McVay said, even a limited number of reps can have Jackson putting a lot of strain on his lower body.

“He knows how to really turn it on” McVay said. “And when he runs, he gets so much work in where he’s really accumulating high-speed yards, and so we want to be smart with him. But it’s always about a collaboration, especially with a player that’s got as much experience as he does.”

Since Jackson already has an understanding of McVay’s offensive philosophy from when they worked together in Washington, it lessens the need for him to practice in his first year in Los Angeles. But offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell does structure the days when Jackson is available to maximize his comfort and development.

“We look at things kind of in these groups of practices, and not only just one day at a time but ‘Hey, what’s it going to look like for DeSean if he goes these days in the calendar?’ We want to make sure he’s getting work in ’cause it’s all a matter of kind of building him up to when we get to the regular season,” O’Connell said.

NOTES: OLB Leonard Floyd should return next week, McVay said. Floyd is coming back from an ankle injury. ... OLB Obo Okoronkwo is being evaluated for a shoulder injury after dealing with stingers.


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