INGLEWOOD, Calif. – After Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers was inactive on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, coach Sean McVay and teammates sounded uncertain that Akers would be back with the team.
This would mean a potential trade or release, although McVay did not say outright that either option is in the works. Fox NFL broadcast host Jay Glazer reported on Sunday morning that the Rams were trying to trade Akers.
“I think there is going to be an opportunity to see what that looks like moving forward, but it’s not going to be a back-and-forth thing,” said McVay after Sunday’s 30-23 loss to the 49ers. “He and I have had great dialogue and we’ll see what happens over the next couple days.”
However, Akers posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday that he was “just as confused as everybody else.”
I’m just as confused as everybody else. I’m blessed though 🤷🏾♂️
— Cam akers (@thereal_cam3) September 17, 2023
McVay called the rationale behind not activating Akers “a coaches’ decision.”
“Felt like that was best for our football team,” he said, “felt like Kyren (Williams) gave us the best opportunity, and what Ronnie (Rivers) and Royce (Freeman) have done, so that was the decision I made.”
Rivers and Freeman have not played in regular-season minutes for the Rams, so the logical interpretation of McVay’s comments is that his evaluation is inclusive to what he sees at practice (media only views the first 20 minutes of stretching and individual drills). Akers was a healthy scratch, meaning he was not dealing with any injuries that would have contributed to his designation.
McVay also said that the current situation with Akers “is different” from what Akers and the Rams went through in 2022.
Last season, the Rams attempted to trade Akers ahead of the deadline but could not, and received no “legitimate” offers, team and league sources said at that time. The Rams held Akers out of practice in mid-October that year, citing “personal reasons.” McVay, who initially called the situation an “internal” matter, later publicly confirmed the Rams were working to trade Akers.
Team and league sources told The Athletic at that time that the situation was related to miscommunication about Akers’ role and a lack of clarity between the running back and the Rams’ first-year position coach as well as higher-level coaches. The Rams also dealt with a catastrophic streak of injuries along their offensive line throughout 2022 and did not run the ball effectively most of the year. McVay and Akers had a discussion after the Rams could not trade him, and Akers finished the 2022 season strongly, with over 100 rushing yards per game in the Rams’ last three games.
Akers, who was drafted in the second round by the Rams in 2020, was poised to take over the No. 1 running back role in 2023.
But Fox reporter Laura Okmin said during Sunday’s broadcast that general manager Les Snead told her, “other guys beat (Akers) out to the field today.”
Some team sources have recently expressed their concern with consistency on a day-to-day basis, and not solely from game evaluations. Yet Akers was publicly praised by coaches for the quality of his preseason and training camp and took leadoff reps in practices throughout that entire time.
It seems as though this situation is a relatively recent development because Akers was featured in the Rams’ new home game hype video on Sunday, which takes some time to plan and produce.
McVay and other coaches have made it clear that this season, each week in practice and in games there would be a competition at most positions.
“This is more about, I’m always going to make decisions that are in the best interest of our football team,” McVay said on Sunday night, “and I have tremendous respect for Cam Akers, but I felt like for our football team today and in this game and as we move forward, that was going to be the best decision for us.”
Williams took over the lead role in Akers’ absence. In Sunday’s loss, he rushed for 52 yards on 14 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He also had six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, though missed a catch that tipped off of his hands and led to a 49ers interception. Williams said he took his eye off the ball too early on the play.
Rivers got in the game behind Williams, indicating he may take over the No. 2 spot. The Rams also brought up Freeman from the practice squad and drafted rookie Zach Evans this spring, though Evans was also inactive.
“The next guy is up, you know?” said quarterback Matthew Stafford after Sunday’s game. “Whether it’s a situation like Cam’s, or an injury, we’re used to this. This is the NFL. Every week there is somebody that tweaks something on a Friday, oh here we go, next guy is up to play. (Stafford was citing an example, not indicating that Akers has an injury).
“I’m probably more used to it than some of the guys that are rookies, but it’s part of it. It’s not a fun part. Love every guy I’ve ever played with. Love the teammates that I have, Cam included. But it’s a part of the business and they have to do whatever they feel is right.”
Williams is friends and locker neighbors with Akers and said he found out on Saturday night that he was “up.”
“I wish Cam nothing but the best,” he said, “me and Cam, we’re close. His time here — I hope he goes somewhere where he can excel and do what he does best, because Cam is a great football player but (an) even better person. Good luck to Cam.”
(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)