The Rams on Saturday put quarterback Matthew Stafford on injured reserve because of a neck injury, almost certainly ending the 14th-year pro’s season and adding another footnote to the team's lost season.
John Wolford will start at quarterback for the Rams. Bryce Perkins also could play.
The Rams have six games left. Stafford would not be eligible to return until the final two games against the Chargers and Seahawks. But it seems unlikely the Rams would activate him for games that are on track to be meaningless for a team that goes into Sunday’s game with a 3-8 record and a five-game losing streak.
Stafford joins star receiver Cooper Kupp, receiver Allen Robinson and other starters on injured reserve. Star defensive lineman Aaron Donald will not play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain that could land the three-time NFL defensive player of the year on injured reserve.
Stafford has passed for 10 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, a dramatic downturn from last season when he passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions, and led the Rams to the Super Bowl title.
Stafford, playing behind an injury-ravaged offensive line, was in concussion protocol twice this season.
He was put in the protocol for the first time Nov, 8, two days after he was sacked four times in a road defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Stafford sat out one game and returned to start on the road against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 20. Stafford passed for two touchdowns, but he left the game after he was sacked in the third quarter and told medical personnel that he felt numbness in his legs.
Stafford sat out last Sunday’s road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
On Friday, when asked which way he was leaning in regard to shutting down Stafford for the season, coach Sean McVay said there were “so many layers” to the decision.
“I'm not the expert in that arena,” he said, “but if there's any sort of sense of this is something that it'll be better served in the long term or it's going to be a few more weeks, things like that, I think that'll end up kind of taking care of itself.”
This will be Wolford’s second start against the Seahawks.
In the 2020 season, he started a wild-card playoff game in Seattle but was forced to leave in the first quarter because of a neck injury sustained after he was tackled on a designed running play.
That Seahawks defense featured star linebacker Bobby Wagner, who now plays for the Rams and will face his former team for the first time.
Wagner, 32, was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round of the 2012 draft. He won a Super Bowl — and nearly won another — during his 10 seasons in Seattle. Along the way, he anchored some of the most dynamic defenses in NFL history and earned All-Pro recognition six times.
“It's just another game,” he said this week.
That is probably a stretch even for the ultra-even-keeled Wagner.
In March, on the same day they traded quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks unceremoniously released Wagner without informing him before the news broke. Wagner’s release reportedly saved the Seahawks more than $16 million.
Since signing with the Rams, Wagner has publicly said that he has no hard feelings and is grateful for the opportunities coach Pete Carroll, general manger John Schneider and Seahawks ownership afforded him during his time with the the team.
He stayed on message this week.
“I am a mature man and that happened a long time ago,” he said. “So, I am focused on performing at my best ability against the team that I'm playing this week.”
The Seahawks arrive at SoFi Stadium with a 6-5 record and in a race with the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West title.
Jordyn Brooks, who succeeded Wagner at middle linebacker for the Seahawks, leads the NFL in tackles. Yet Carroll told Seattle reporters this week the Seahawks miss Wagner.
“We miss everything about him,” Carroll said. “There’s no replacing him. He was unique, one-of-a-kind guy.”
Wagner said he learned not to put more importance on one game over another while playing for the Seahawks.
Rams teammates sense how much it would mean to Wagner to play well against his former team.
Early in the week, edge rusher Leonard Floyd said Wagner was quiet.
“I think he’s mad,” Floyd said. “He’s ready to play now. It’s on us to come out and have that same energy he’s got.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.