Cam Akers' return for Rams could happen Sunday against the Ravens

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INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA JANUARY 3, 2021-Rams runing back Cam Akers fights off Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo for a recption in the 2nd quarter at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood Sunday. (Los Angeles Times/Wally Skalij)
Rams running back Cam Akers tries to fend off a tackle attempt by Cardinals linebacker Tanner Vallejo after a reception during a game last season. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams returned from Minnesota with a playoff spot secured and in control of the NFC West. They also sustained some losses in their 30-23 victory over the Vikings, one that could accelerate the return of running back Cam Akers for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

Starting linebacker Ernest Jones suffered a left ankle injury that will require surgery and running back Darrell Henderson has a right knee sprain that could keep him sidelined for three to five weeks, McVay said during a videoconference with reporters.

Both players will be placed on injured reserve.

Defensive lineman Greg Gaines had surgery Monday for a finger injury on his left hand, but McVay said he expected Gaines would play with a cast Sunday.

Jones, a third-round draft pick from South Carolina, moved into the starting lineup in October after the Rams traded Kenny Young to the Denver Broncos. He has intercepted two passes.

Jones was injured in the first quarter of the victory over the Vikings.

“It’s really unfortunate because Ernest was really just starting to hit his stride,” McVay said, adding, “Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to maybe come back this year, but if not I think he did a lot of great things that we can build on.

“And then poor Darrell can’t catch a break.”

Henderson was injured after finishing a 17-yard run on his only carry against the Vikings.

Henderson, a 2019 third-round draft pick, has struggled with injuries throughout his three seasons. In 2019 and 2020, his seasons ended prematurely because of ankle injuries.

The Rams traded for running back Sony Michel near the end of the preseason because of Henderson’s durability issues.

Henderson started 10 games this season and has rushed for 688 yards and five touchdowns. But with Henderson nursing a thigh injury, Michel started the last four games — all Rams victories. Michel rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in 27 carries against the Vikings.

Akers, who suffered a right Achilles injury in July, was activated to the roster last week, ostensibly so that he would receive credit for this season toward an NFL pension. But the Rams planned to possibly play him for the first time in the regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers or the playoffs.

Akers practiced on the field with the team last Friday during a workout at SoFi Stadium.

“You still want to be really smart with him,” McVay said. “But there is a possibility he plays this week. He looked really good last week in practice.”

Before McVay announced Henderson’s injury, and how that could affect the timetable for Akers’ return, Michel welcomed the second-year pro’s possible return.

“Very talented kid,” Michel said. “Great guy, great energy, and I’m excited for him.”

After spending the last three weeks navigating through a coronavirus outbreak, McVay was looking forward to a more typical week of game-planning and preparation.

“I don’t know what the hell to do with myself having a normal week to prepare now,” he said. “Those last three weeks have been such a whirlwind, being able to look at actually having three legitimate days of preparation feels like we’ll have three weeks.”

Etc.

Offensive lineman Joe Noteboom returned to the roster from the reserve/COVID-19 list, but Andrew Whitworth remains on the list, McVay said. Center Brian Allen, who left Sunday’s game because of a knee injury, was examined by trainers on Monday and “everything checked out OK on him,” McVay said. … The game against the Ravens in Baltimore, originally scheduled for 4:25 p.m. EDT, was moved to 1 p.m., making it a 10 a.m. kickoff for Rams players’ body clocks. But McVay, whose team is unbeaten this season in early starts in the Central and Eastern times zones, welcomed the change. “We’ve learned to travel on these early-window trips,” he said, adding, “I like it better that way.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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