Gur­ley down­plays show­down.

Rams RB work­ing to shake knee in­jury as duel with El­liott awaits

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - By SCOTT FRENCH Spe­cial Con­trib­u­tor

THOU­SAND OAKS, Calif. — The sex­i­est of the matchups, as it were, in Satur­day’s Cow­boys-los An­ge­les Rams show­down might con­cern the star run­ning backs, and it looks like the face­off is on.

Todd Gur­ley, the All-pro back who missed the Rams’ fi­nal two reg­u­lar-sea­son games with a knee in­jury, ap­pears set to go after par­tic­i­pat­ing fully in Thurs­day’s prac­tice ses­sion at the team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity at Cal Lutheran.

He and Cow­boys star Ezekiel El­liott, who won his sec­ond rush­ing ti­tle in three years this sea­son, won’t meet on the field dur­ing the NFC di­vi­sional play­off at the Los An­ge­les Me­mo­rial Coli­seum, of course, but which team heads to the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game could de­pend on which back is more ef­fec­tive.

“It’s not re­ally about us, just a team game,” Gur­ley said in his me­dia ses­sion Wed­nes­day. “Ob­vi­ously, we’ve got to hype it up: Zeke vs. Gur­ley. It’ll be a good game. He’s a great back.

“I guess I’m not too bad my­self.”

Gur­ley was hurt in the Rams’ Dec. 16 loss to Philadel­phia, their only Coli­seum de­feat this sea­son, but re­turned to ac­tion after miss­ing a se­ries. He didn’t play in the sub­se­quent games, wins at Ari­zona and over San Fran­cisco, and re­turned to the field this week.

“He looks like Todd,” Rams head coach Sean Mcvay said Thurs­day in his fi­nal me­dia ses­sion be­fore the game. “He looks like the ex­plo­sive, great back that we’re ac­cus­tomed to see­ing. He’s feel­ing good. He’s had a great week of prepa­ra­tion, and we’re ex­pect­ing him to be ready to go. All things are look­ing in a very pos­i­tive di­rec­tion.”

Gur­ley par­tic­i­pated in Tues­day’s morn­ing walk­through and was lim­ited in prac­tice Wed­nes­day. He prac­ticed fully Thurs­day.

“Got on the ground for the first time since the Ea­gles game,” Gur­ley said. “But ev­ery­thing went pretty good [Wed­nes­day], so just su­per ex­cited about that, hon­estly.”

Gur­ley teased Mcvay ahead of Tues­day’s prac­tice.

“He got a kick out of jok­ing with me that he was real sore to­day,” Mcvay said after­ward. “I didn’t think it was that funny.”

The sta­tus of Gur­ley’s knee has, nat­u­rally, been a huge topic ahead of the game. He un­der­stands this.

“I haven’t been on the field in the last two weeks,” he said. “So it’s like, ‘Why is Todd not on the field? It’s his knee, so we want to know how his knee is do­ing and get an up­date.’ Then I don’t have to keep get­ting tweets and In­sta­grams all day. They could just watch this video [of the me­dia ses­sion], see how my knee is do­ing. They’re ei­ther go­ing to be­lieve it or think I’m ly­ing.

“It’s cool. It’s cool. I’m re­ally just ea­ger to get back on the field and then just see how it re­sponds. Then, hope­fully, we have some new ques­tions next week and not about the knee.”

El­liott, who ran for 1,434 yards this sea­son plus an­other 137 in last week­end’s wild-card win over Seat­tle. wasn’t hyp­ing the “matchup” at Cow­boys camp in Frisco on Tues­day.

“It’s go­ing to be great go­ing against him,” he said, “but I’m not go­ing to put too much em­pha­sis on that.”

Leave that to Gur­ley, who was the NFL’S third-lead­ing rusher this sea­son with 1,251 yards — along with 17 touch­downs, most among run­ning backs, and no fum­bles — and won first-team All-pro honors, with El­liott on the sec­ond team.

“[El­liott is] a great run­ning back,” Gur­ley said. “He’s a big back, like my­self. Ba­si­cally fast, strong, catches the ball, team re­lies on him a lot. He goes out there and proves it every week. He gets it done. That’s what makes him one of the top backs in this league — the stuff that he’s been able to do since he’s en­tered the league.”

Halt­ing El­liott is cen­tral to the Rams’ de­fen­sive plan.

“Zeke has the abil­ity to run all the dif­fer­ent types of schemes: wide zone, some of the tight zone, down­hill di­rect runs,” Mcvay said. “They can get into the off­set gun and run some zone read with the tight end com­ing back across, or just some of your one-by-three for­ma­tions. They do a good job mix­ing it up.

“They’re a tough of­fense. [Stop­ping El­liott is] def­i­nitely a big part of what we want to be able to do, but I think it’s al­ways pred­i­cated on the sit­u­a­tion. We have in­tent be­hind the calls. Stop­ping the run is go­ing to al­ways be a pri­or­ity, es­pe­cially when you’re talk­ing about play­ing against a team like this. We’ve got to play good foot­ball down-in and down-out. Stop­ping the run will be one of those things that will dic­tate that, but it also is go­ing to be stop­ping the pass, get­ting them off on third downs, some dif­fer­ent things that might come up out­side of just stop­ping the run.”

Mar­cio Jose Sanchez/the As­so­ci­ated Press

Rams run­ning back Todd Gur­ley (above) fin­ished sec­ond to Ezekiel El­liott in the NFL rush­ing yardage derby but was cho­sen first-team All-pro while El­liott made the sec­ond team.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.