The Toronto Rapors won an NBA title this June by limiting Kawhi Leonard’s games and minutes coming off an injury-filled 2017-18 season. Deemed “load management,” resting Leonard during the regular season allowed him to dominate in the postseason.
The NFL is a copycat league, and perhaps teams will try to borrow from the NBA champs to win a title of their own.
NFL.com’s Logan Reardon reports that this veteran plan includes skipping all four preseason games and taking practices day-by-day. During training camp, he isn't taking every first-team rep, and he's already missed OTAs and minicamp.
“There will be (days he doesn't practice),” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “There will be some days that — depending upon his workload and looking toward that (Week 1) Carolina game — we might look at treating him like we have some of those veteran players. Todd really has become a veteran player.”
Gurley’s knee has long been a concern, leading to him “falling” to the 10th overall pick in 2015. Gurley was a star at Georgia, earning first-team All-SEC honors as a freshman, but he tore his ACL during his junior year, which kept him out until Week 3 of his rookie NFL season.
Things have mostly gone smoothly as a pro since, but Gurley was forced out of the last two regular season games in 2018 due to knee inflammation. He was able to make it back for the postseason but only picked up a combined 45 yards on 14 carries in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.
However, Gurley’s health is still in question with reports saying that he dealt with arthritis in his balky knee. He’s only 24, but given his record four-year, $57 million deal, the Rams are willing to do anything within their power to get their money’s worth.
How will this impact other running backs’ deals?
One of the biggest stories of training camp and the offseason has been other running backs’ willingness to hold out. Melvin Gordon has not reported to Los Angeles Chargers camp, while Ezekiel Elliott is hoping to set a new running back record with the Dallas Cowboys.
Gurley’s deal was criticized at the time for being too large in era when analytics don’t think star running backs are nearly as valuable as the contracts they demand. That’s not going to be helped when the back with the biggest contract has to cut back on practice to maintain his health in what should be his prime.
Most players would probably sit out preseason games and practices happily if they were guaranteed Gurley’s touches, so he should be happy with his set-up. But teams may think twice before matching his contract if health could be such a concern.
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