Heading into the 2021 NFL season, Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers was expected to become a breakout star. After finishing his 2020 rookie campaign strongly, Akers was in position to be the top RB on one of the league’s best offenses. Unfortunately, the former second-round pick tore his Achilles in July, seemingly ending his season. However, recent reports have indicated Akers could return from injury far sooner than expected.
Update 12/23/21: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Los Angeles Rams have designated RB Cam Akers for return from IR. That opens the 21-day window for him to practice, the first step on his path to playing this season.
Cam Akers injury update
After tearing his Achilles, Akers was expected to miss the entire 2021 season, but that may not be the case. Speaking to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, Rams head coach Sean McVay said Akers could be available if Los Angeles earns a postseason berth (as they almost surely will).
“You don’t want to be presumptuous, but if we are able to make the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to play after (the regular season), the expectation is that Cam would be available to play,” McVay told Rodrigue at the end of October. “He’s on track to do that.”
The Rams selected Akers out of Florida State with the 52nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He handled 14 rushing attempts in Week 1 of last year but then played sparingly until the tail end of the season. Akers took over as LA’s starting running back in Week 12, posting 86 carries for 340 yards over his final four games. In two playoff contests, Akers totaled 46 attempts and 221 yards.
Were he to make it back this season, Akers would likely share the Rams’ backfield with Darrell Henderson Jr. In Akers’ absence, Henderson is enjoying a career season. His 562 rushing yards are the ninth-most in the NFL, while he’s also scored 5 touchdowns. If Henderson can remain healthy for the rest of the year, he’d presumably be LA’s lead RB come playoff time. But Akers — and current backup Sony Michel — would offer the Rams depth.
Achilles tears can end RB careers
The Rams may have had some inclination that Akers could return in 2021 because they did not place him on injured reserve before the season began. Had they done so, Akers would have been ineligible to play this year. Instead, Akers is on the active/non-football injury list, which gives the Rams more options.
While Akers suffered his injury while working out in preparation for the season, the NFL considers it a “non-football injury” because it happened outside of his time at the Rams’ facility. Players on the NFI list must miss at least six games before returning to action.
Can Akers realistically come back this season?
If Akers can come back, he’ll join an extremely short list of NFL running backs who were able to recover from an Achilles tear. Achilles injuries are devastating for RBs, who are already prone to short careers. Such a tear can sap explosion, agility, and burst while limiting a back’s ability to cut.
Over the past decade, players such as Arian Foster, Isaiah Crowell, and Beanie Wells suffered Achilles tears and were quickly out of the league. More recently, Marlon Mack has returned to a limited role for the Colts after injuring his Achilles. Tennessee Titans RB D’Onta Foreman is another successful case. Hopefully, Akers can follow in their footsteps as he attempts his return to the Rams.