QB Matthew Stafford is expected to return to the Rams' starting lineup this week, Sean McVay says

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Matthew Stafford is expected to start for the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday against Seattle, coach Sean McVay said.

Stafford missed the Rams' final game before their bye week, a 20-3 loss in Green Bay on Nov. 5. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback sprained a ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand during Los Angeles' loss at Dallas one week earlier.

“He’s making great progress, and so we’re operating with the anticipation and expectation that he is going to be good to go,” McVay said Monday after Stafford participated in the individual portions of the Rams' first practice back from the bye. “He'll be pushing through, but we expect him to be able to start and play and do his thing and lead the way this week.”

Stafford has passed for 2,070 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 59.7% of his throws this season for the Rams (3-6), who are on a three-game losing streak.

Stafford returns to practice this week with a new backup: Carson Wentz, the seven-year NFL starter and 2016 No. 2 overall draft pick by Philadelphia. Wentz participated extensively in practice Monday for the Rams after spending the team’s bye week studying the playbook and working with the Rams’ coaches on Zoom.

The Rams created the spot for Wentz last week by waiving backup Brett Rypien, who struggled after relieving Stafford against the Cowboys and then starting against the Packers.

“It’s really just a chance to upgrade the quarterback room,” McVay said. “We feel good about Matthew returning, and when he’s out there, you feel great about the leadership that he provides. But God forbid if something were to happen where he weren’t available, we felt like this would offer an opportunity with someone that’s played a lot of high-level football to get him in here, get him familiar with some of the things that we’re doing.”

Wentz has never joined a team as a designated backup, and he has started all but one of his 93 career games.

But McVay said the 30-year-old veteran has responded well to the new role while knowing there's a chance he'll get to play this season in place of Stafford, who missed the second half of last season with a bruised spinal cord.

“We were just excited about being able to get him in the building,” McVay said. “We had a need, and ... to have somebody that's played as well as he's played, has had as many experiences as he's had, to be out there and available is kind of rare.”

McVay said right tackle Rob Havenstein and linebacker Ernest Jones also are expected to return Sunday. Both veterans missed the Rams' game at Green Bay with injuries.

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