Stafford spoke to the Los Angeles media as quarterbacks and rookies reported to Orange County to help launch camp. One of the more pressing questions asked was how the team moves on without Cam Akers in the backfield.
It’s nearly in parallel to what the Rams faced before the 1999-2000 season, when prized free agent quarterback addition Trent Green went down with a season-ending knee injury during the preseason, but a confident Vermeil said these words that would eventually go down in franchise lore: “We will rally around Kurt Warner and we’ll play good football” that became a precursor to their Vince Lombardi title run.
Akers, who entered the 2021 camp with high praise and was listed by multiple outlets as a breakout candidate for the season, is out with a torn Achilles. While his ailment occurred before a preseason game, it still puts the Rams offense in a bind with uncertainty behind Stafford.
However, in a near similar tone of confidence that was seen from Vermeil 21 years ago, Stafford let it be known that the running game won’t miss a beat.
“I think I have a lot of belief and a lot of trust in the guys that we have in that locker room and on the coaching staff to no matter who’s back there, we’re going to have a successful running game,” Stafford told reporters.
Stafford’s Biggest Concern With Akers
It’s not the fact that Akers is not listed in the two-deep at running back that concerns the new quarterback. Stafford is more concerned for Akers himself.
“Really the biggest gut punch was for the kid. I think it’s so difficult,” Stafford said. “I dealt with injuries my first couple of years. Really throughout your career, you end up doing it here in the NFL. So, that one’s obviously a tough one and one that’s going to take some time. So I really feel for him, more so than I do us as a team.”
The Rams are currently five deep in the backfield with Darrell Henderson, Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais, Jake Funk and Otis Anderson Jr. – the latter two coming to the team as a seventh rounder and undrafted free agent, respectively.
Funk himself has an opportunity to make the most out of Akers’ absence. Funk, though, said his attitude heading into his first training camp hasn’t changed. With or without Akers, he wants to be the best version of himself.
“You got to come in and prove yourself every single day. Regardless of who is in the room, it’s a business. So, at the end of the day, you just got to come in and prove yourself,” Funk told reporters.
‘We’ll Do Everything We Can to Make Him Proud’
Akers’ presence will surely be missed. Along with taking handoffs and showing a receiving side, the Rams used him on wildcat formations by taking direct snaps at quarterback.
Stafford, though, is planning to rally around his fallen teammate with the rest of the Rams.
“I know we’ll miss him out there. He’s a great player, but just feel bad for him to not get the opportunity to go out there and play the game that I know he loves to play. We’ll do everything we can to make him proud,” Stafford declared.