One of the most overlooked questions as the 2022 season approaches is whether and to what extent the elbow of Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will remain properly functional.
Stafford didn’t throw at all in the offseason due to inflammation in the elbow. Eventually, he needed an injection.
It’s been something to watch throughout the early days of camp. As of Saturday, Stafford said it’s all “coming along.” On Monday, the Rams acknowledged that Stafford is still feeling some discomfort — and that the team cut back this throwing during Monday’s practice because of it.
“We’d lessened Matthew’s workload today,” coach Sean McVay told reporters on Monday. “Really when we look at it, we’ve got five weeks until September 8. He’s still feeling a little bit of pain, he could push through it. You guys have been out here, he’s been throwing and competing in team settings. We felt like the smart thing was let’s really just take it a week at a time.
“He ended up getting about 40 to 50 throws in individual. We didn’t take part in the team activities and that’s really more a result of he’s got so much experience. The most important thing is for him feeling good and healthy on September 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. We just want to be really smart with somebody that is as important as our quarterback is and as experienced as he is to be able to put together a plan that we feel like is in his best interest and in our team’s best interest.”
McVay has a habit of always seeing the bright side of any issue, and that approach has worked well for him. Still, while he’s not yet to the point of an armless Black Knight declaring the situation a “flesh wound,” it’s definitely cause for concern, given that it’s so early in camp.
A week into practice, and after a day on which he didn’t throw at all, Stafford didn’t participate in team drills, due to lingering pain in his elbow.
As McVay said, Stafford can push through it. But pain is a signal, a warning. If ignored, it can lead to something more than pain.
That’s what happened to Ben Roethlisberger early in the 2019 season. He dealt with discomfort in his elbow for a while. He pushed through it. In Week Two against the Seahawks, the tendons tore and that was that for the season.
Obviously, the Rams are trying to ensure that Stafford is ready for the start of the 2022 season. Then, the challenge will become getting him ready for each of the remaining games.
Will that mean not practicing at times in the regular season? Maybe. The fact that McVay felt compelled to keep Stafford out of practice so early in camp surely will be spun for the benefit of fans that want and need to see the glass as half full. It’s nevertheless a cause for concern; there’s a major difference between Stafford and John Wolford.
Regardless of how the facts are characterized, the facts are that Stafford is still feeling some discomfort in his elbow, and that McVay decided to keep him out of team drills in a training-camp practice because of it. So, yes, it’s something to keep watching and tracking, all year long.