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When the nose tackle got to the Rams' training complex for the usual off-day treatment, he said he quickly found out what he had been missing when he was ordered off the property.
“Like the apocalypse was happening or something,” he said with a grin.
The complex had been shut down after the team's latest outbreak of COVID-19 infections, and the Rams didn't return to anything resembling practice until Saturday. During the five days in between, the Rams' game against Seattle was postponed until Tuesday night and at least 27 players spent time on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which stood at 21 Saturday after two additions and six roster reinstatements, including receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Darrell Henderson.
“I didn’t think it would mushroom this big,” Gaines said. “I didn’t think it would be as big as it is.”
The Rams (9-4) are scrambling to prepare for the Seahawks with whatever players are available to them at SoFi Stadium, but they appear confident they can compete in what will be two games in six days, including their trip to Minnesota on Dec. 26.
“We had to make the appropriate adjustments on the fly, and that was tough to do,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “I don’t think it was anything we saw coming, the coaches or players or the league, on such a mass scale. But we’ll move forward and hopefully do a better job going forward of having things ready when they happen.”
The outbreak led to several days of uncertainty for the Rams' players and coaches, who had just earned the most energizing win of their season. Instead of preparing to ride that momentum against the Seahawks (5-8), Los Angeles had to concentrate on testing, holding Zoom meetings and making backup plans for a myriad of possibilities for their near future.
When the Rams went through a light practice Saturday, assistant coaches and support staff had to jump into action so the Rams would have enough bodies to run coach Sean McVay's activities.
McVay called it “an incredibly emotional week.”
“You have a great win on Monday, and then Tuesday you wake up and find out there’s a handful of players that tested positive,” McVay said. “It’s been a whirlwind for the last couple of days as we try to figure out where you know the numbers are only going to compound. You realize how easily this can be spread through our team or some others as far as this new variant. ... It’s so difficult because when you play a game and there’s so much cross-contact exposure with what we do, and you’re having some delayed positives from guys.”
McVay said the Rams have an idea how their outbreak started, but without providing details, he believes the quick spread was related to conditions around their complex in Ventura County.
“I don’t know whether it could have been prevented or not, but I do believe in my heart of hearts that our players weren’t making the wrong decisions or doing anything with malicious intent,” McVay said.
McVay said he expects several more players to come off the reserve/COVID list over the next two days before the Rams must set their final roster for Tuesday's game. But until he knows for sure, McVay and his staff must plan for any eventuality — for instance, several contingency plans depending on whether starting right tackle Rob Havenstein and backup swing tackle Joseph Noteboom get off the list.
“What I’ve learned is let’s have a plan for the guys we know we have available for sure," McVay said. "And then some of these guys, let’s have a plan if they keep trending in the right direction."
NOTES: C Brian Allen was listed as a full participant in practice after missing most of the last two games with a knee injury. If Allen is healthy, the Rams could fill their potential hole at right tackle by moving backup C Coleman Shelton to guard and moving one of their starting guards to tackle. ... DT Aaron Donald is listed with a knee injury on the Rams' injury report, but the three-time AP defensive player of the year is expected to play Tuesday, McVay said.
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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press