Rams hurting: Matthew Stafford has more arm pain; Van Jefferson needs knee surgery

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford gestures during an NFL football practice in Irvine
Matthew Stafford might be signaling "thumbs up," but the Rams' quarterback is still experiencing pain in this throwing arm. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Receiver Van Jefferson is not the only member of the Rams passing attack with a physical condition that is cause for concern.

Add quarterback Matthew Stafford to the list.

Jefferson will have knee surgery Tuesday, putting his status for the Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills “up in the air,” and the Rams took steps to ensure that Stafford is ready to play in that game without lingering pain in his right arm, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

Stafford played through arm pain while leading the Rams to a Super Bowl title, and he received an injection in his elbow during the offseason. He did not throw passes during organized-team activity workouts, but he had been a full participant in training camp practices.

On Saturday, Stafford was asked how his arm felt, and if he was having to do anything different to manage it between workouts.

“It's coming along,” he said. “I’m kind of right where I want to be and just continue to get it feeling better. Get it stronger.

“As far as things different, piecing this thing together every year is a little bit different,” he said, running his hands in front of his body. “So, yeah, there's different challenges. We go from there.”

On Monday, Stafford participated in individual drills but did not take part in full-team drills. McVay said Stafford’s workload would be “lessened” during the weeks leading up to the opener because he continues to experience discomfort.

“He’s still feeling a little bit of pain,” McVay said. “He could push through it. ... We felt like the smart thing was let’s really just take it a week at time. ... The most important thing is for him feeling good and healthy on Sept. 8.

“We could certainly push, and he could really grind through this, but that’s not the goal with somebody like him. It’s not something that we’re concerned about, but we just want to be really smart with somebody as important as a quarterback is.”

Jefferson had surgery on his left knee in the weeks following their Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. He did not participate in drills during organized-team activities but made several impressive catches in the first week of training camp before he was absent Saturday.

Tuesday’s procedure will be on the same knee for what McVay described as a “little knee tweak” that was unrelated to last season’s issue.

“It is the same knee, but it is a little different area,” McVay said. “And it’s a minor thing that we’ll be able to clean up.

“So we’re encouraged.”

Jefferson’s absence plunges one of the NFL’s potentially most potent receiving corps into a series of question marks as the Rams prepare for the Bills, who are regarded as a Super Bowl contender.

Cooper Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, and new addition Allen Robinson provide McVay and Stafford two elite targets.

But the loss of Jefferson could cut deep.

Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson stretches to catch a pass in Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals on Feb. 13.
Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson stretches to catch a pass in Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals on Feb. 13. Jefferson's availability for the season opener against Buffalo is "up in the air." (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The third-year pro last season caught 50 passes, six for touchdowns. He also displayed deep-play capability and averaged 16 yards per catch.

Second-year pros Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell are in line to replace Jefferson.

Skowronek, a seventh-round draft pick, caught 11 passes for 133 yards last season. He can play numerous receiver positions and also excels on special teams.

Atwell, a second-round pick, is attempting to come back from a disappointing rookie season. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Atwell appeared overmatched and could not find a role as a receiver. He returned kicks for eight games until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.

During the offseason, Atwell sought guidance from Kupp and worked closely with the All-Pro to improve and gain strength. He made several plays Monday.

McVay also continues to openly court free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to re-sign with the Rams.

Last season, Beckham signed with the Rams after the trade deadline and helped them make their Super Bowl run. He suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the Super Bowl and has been recovering from surgery.

Beckham is not expected to be ready to play until midseason.

But after McVay listed the receivers on the roster who could benefit from increased opportunity, he could not help adding a rejoinder.

“And then we’ll continue to see if we can continue to figure when Odell will come back at some point as well,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.