Twelve months ago, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (elbow) unfairly carried the label of someone that couldn’t get it done in big moments after playing a dozen seasons with the Detroit Lions and never winning a playoff game. Now, he’s the leader of the defending Super Bowl champions. Without questions to be asked about his ability to play his best in the biggest spots, the focus has now turned to his physical well-being.
It’s been about a week now since reports started surfacing that Stafford was dealing with a case of “bad tendinitis” in his throwing elbow, one that has caused the team to back off the veteran’s reps in camp and take some additional time to rest the injury. In the aftermath, Stafford has downplayed the severity of the issue, referring to it as “irritating” or “soreness,” and he said recently that he believed he could still “make any throw [he] wanted.”
As we sit here in early August, there doesn’t seem to be huge cause for concern. Stafford played in all 21 games last year, including playoffs, on a run that stretched into February. At 34 and with 13 NFL seasons under his belt, there’s zero reason for the team or player to prioritize preparation over rest — his former NFC North running mate, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, just this week called playing a series in preseason games a “waste.”
Still, when head coach Sean McVay is using phrases like “tricky deal” and labeling it as “abnormal” for a quarterback it can’t be completely dismissed. One of the things that set Stafford apart from his predecessor, current Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, was his ability to attack anywhere on the field. There could be a trickle-down effect on the Rams’ passing attack if the elbow issue lingers into the regular season and affects what he can do between the white lines.
Reading the tea leaves, it’s clear there’s some level of trepidation on the team’s side. If there wasn’t, Stafford would be out there building chemistry with newcomers like wide receiver Allen Robinson rather than being limited to individual work. Stafford has proven his toughness over the years to be sure, but playing through injury and playing effectively through injury aren’t necessarily the same thing — just look at what now-Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson went through upon returning from his finger injury. Would LA’s offense revert to Goff levels with a diminished Stafford at the helm?
Fantasy football outlook
Until we hear something more concrete that sounds like Stafford will in fact miss games, there’s no real reason to adjust his ranking. Even with no running ability to speak of, Stafford a sound QB1, but, for now, the news of his elbow woes simply makes acquiring a quality second option more important.