THOUSAND OAKS – It will be framed and displayed prominently, like a long-coveted work of art.
The ball, and the NFL touchdown that made it special for Cam Akers, lasted longer than he or the Rams had hoped.
“It’s my first, so I’m going to keep it to myself,” Akers said a few days after taking a pass from Jared Goff and beating a linebacker to the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter in the Rams ’27. -24 win over Tampa Bay on Monday night.
The Rams caused Florida State to drop their top pick last April and take him into the second round when they tried to replace Todd Gurley.
Akers wasn’t shy in training camp saying he expected to prove himself a ‘complete back’ like Gurley who could ‘block, catch and run’.
But part of that, learning to block professional-level passes, wasn’t as easy as Akers expected. After starting the Rams’ season opening wins against Dallas and Philadelphia, a rib injury took him two games. He is third on the team behind Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown in carry (50), rush yards (201), and average (4.0).
This week, as the Rams (7-3) prepared for the San Francisco 49ers (4-6) at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, a generally cheerful Akers admitted that adjusting to the NFL grind was also difficult.
“As a young player, as a rookie, it is easy to get bored with the process,” said the resident of Mississippi op Zoom. “(The key is) just understanding that it is a process that you have to go through. Bring it forward with your feet on the ground.
“That’s what I did from the first half of the season to the second half, and it’s paying off.”
It was especially difficult during the off-season months, when the restrictions enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to forgo on-field training and face-to-face meetings with study sessions via video conferencing.
Akers learned more than X’s and O’s.
“It just made me understand that no matter what circumstances you’re in, you still have work to do, you still have to be there,” he said. “At first I struggled with it a bit, but now I get it.”
The 5-foot-10, 217-pound back flashed his talent by missing tacklers on a 19-yard catch-and-run-up to the left in the Rams’ loss in Miami in Week 8.
The next day, coach Sean McVay Akers praised Akers for that play, but explained what the 21-year-old had to work on.
“I just want to keep seeing him mature, rising and really learning to compete without the ball, understanding where he fits in (quarterback) protection,” McVay said. “When the ball is in his hands, it’s pretty natural to him.”
The reward consists of more games like Monday. It was memorable not only for Akers, but for two other Rams rookies as well. Wide receiver Van Jefferson scored his first NFL touchdown and rookie safety Jordan Fuller grabbed his first two NFL interceptions, no less on Tom Brady.
Akers’ touchdown came on a short pass where Goff said the Rams worked a lot, with the difference that the receiver on the left became more open to the Buccaneers than usual in practice.
“He has great hands, he can catch the ball in the backfield, he can play after the flyout,” Goff said of Akers. “That’s part of the reason we like him.”
After waiting so long, Akers said, he knew the touchdown was coming as soon as he heard play in the group.
“When the call came in, I got excited because I kind of knew if it got to me, I scored,” he said. “No matter how the ball gets to where the defender is, when it comes to me, I score.
“It came to me, and thank goodness I scored. It was an unreal moment. I have my first touchdown. ”
Suitable for framing.
The Rams held early Thanksgiving Day training. … Sean McVay said defensive end Derek Rivers, who was claimed after waivers, should join the team on Saturday, but will not play against the 49ers on Sunday. … Of the three exhibition teams of Rams who were on the COVID-19 reserve list on November 18, two are now off the track. Wide receiver JJ Koski was removed on Wednesday, two days after the tight end Kendall Blanton. Defensive back Jake Gervase remains on the list for players who tested positive for the virus or had close contact with someone who did. … Cornerback Dont’e Deayon (calf) returned to the practice squad of the injured list, according to the NFL transaction thread. … The 49ers have won 72 games (including the last three), the Rams 67, and they have drawn three times in the series twice per season starting in 1950.