Cooper Kupp is unquestionably one of the best receivers in the NFL. He made that very clear in 2021 when he set all kinds of records, won Offensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl MVP and the triple crown for receiving.
But if there’s one thing that’s held him back throughout his career, it’s injuries. He missed eight games in 2018 (plus the Rams’ entire playoff run), two games in 2020 (including the playoffs) and eight games last season.
Now, Kupp is set to miss at least Week 1 against the Seahawks and possibly three-plus more games if he’s placed on injured reserve.
If there’s someone who knows how painful and frustrating injuries can be, it’s Kupp’s quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Stafford missed 19 games in his first two seasons in the NFL, and then another eight in 2019 and eight last season. He shared some perspective on what Kupp’s going through right now, hopefully getting people to realize that he’s more than just a part of their fantasy team.
“That’s the toughest thing. Everybody sits there and goes, ‘Oh man, he is not going to be on our fantasy team,’ or ‘He’s not going to be on this, that, and the other,’ but this is a human being, too, that’s worked his entire life and works more than anybody I know in the offseasons to make sure that he’s ready to go and when he’s not, that’s tough as a human being and as a football player and as a competitor,” Stafford said this week. “I was in those situations, especially early on in my career. I missed I think 19 games my first two seasons for hits that I feel like I’d taken a hundred times and for some reason I wasn’t getting up from them. Then played eight and a half years and didn’t miss a game. It’s a game that, injuries happen. They’re not the fun part, they’re probably the worst part of this game, but he’s a strong-willed guy. Obviously, we support the heck out of him and whenever he is back, we’ll be happy to have him.”
The Rams don’t yet know when Kupp will return, but the way Sean McVay has talked about the injury makes it seem like it won’t be a one-week absence. Stafford expressed confidence in the Rams’ other receivers, including Puka Nacua, Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell, but there’s no replacing Kupp.
In the meantime, Stafford is going to play as well as he can and not force the ball into coverage.
“I try to play the game as cleanly as I possibly can and throw the ball where the coverage dictates,” Stafford said. “No question about it from a skill position point, there’s a lot of stuff that goes through Cooper where he may be designed to be the number one or if we get a certain pressure we’re going to get to this play and let him go do what he does best. Obviously, he’s not going to be out on the field but my job really doesn’t change much. It’s, hey, go out there and throw the ball where it’s supposed to be thrown accurately and on time and let those guys do what they do because we’ve got some talented guys on the outside that can make plays both down the field and also after the catch. I’m excited to watch those guys do their thing and I’m excited to go play and when Cooper gets back, we’ll welcome him back.”