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Cam Akers, the LA Rams’ No. 1 running back, tore his Achilles in practice yesterday, and surgery will end his season before it ever got started. He has no chance to return this year, even if his team makes the Super Bowl. Other players around the league should take note.
Achilles is now the other dreaded “A” injury, besides an ACL tear. Both can happen early on and are the top two season enders. Acclimation injuries are real. Just ask the four Saskatchewan Roughriders who recently tore their Achilles in the same practice after returning from a CFL hiatus due to COVID.
Football players everywhere should take note. Akers and his Rams teammates did not boycott OTAs. They participated fully. Their risk of injury was lower than teams or players that stayed away, but training in non-football activities cannot always mimic the change of direction strains (eccentric loads) that cause Achilles tears.
Though players have gotten bigger, faster and stronger, the Achilles has remained the same size. It is like building a race car or off-road vehicle on a regular suspension, thus the increase in foot and ankle injuries.
Given the timing, the Akers injury undoubtedly happened away from the Rams training facility, as NFL teams are all still on hiatus until next week. This could technically be considered a non-football injury (NFI), which would mean he would not get paid and his surgery would not be covered. However, this will not happen like it did for Ja’Wuan James with the Broncos.
It is routine for players working out away from the facility to get covered out of good faith, even though they don’t have to be, per the CBA. When the NFLPA encouraged players to stay away from OTAs, teams used this loophole as a threat to get players to return. The James situation was unique in that he was a high-priced free agent signing who had not played much due to opt out and injury, and this was a way for the new Broncos GM to get out of that contract.
The only silver lining is Akers is a different story. He is Sean McVay and Les Sneed’s guy. They drafted him, and he is in on a cheap rookie contract with a big future. There would be mutiny in the Rams locker room if they didn’t take care of their young player.
Akers will return full go for 2022, but others around the NFL should be aware of acclimation injuries during the ramp up period.