THE SUPER BOWL WILL BE BITTERSWEET FOR RAMS RECEIVER COOPER KUPP
To miss a Super Bowl because of an injury is bad enough. To have it happen in your first Super Bowl seems especially cruel. In the case of Cooper Kupp, the standout slot receiver for the Los Angeles Rams, it’s hard to say whether the anguish this weekend will be greater for him or for his team.
Kupp, 25, entered his second season as one of the Rams’ top three wide receivers, alongside Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, but in the team’s 5-0 start, he emerged as the one quarterback Jared Goff would look for when things got particularly difficult. Kupp earned that trust by catching 75 percent of the passes thrown his way and scoring five touchdowns in those five games.
But Sunday, as the Rams try to beat the New England Patriots and win the franchise’s first championship since the 1999 season, Kupp will be reduced to a spectator. A knee sprain cost him most of Weeks 6 through 8. A torn ACL in his left knee, which he suffered in Week 10, ended his season. Several highprofile players, like Carson Wentz, Von Miller and Jeremy Shockey, have found themselves in the same position in recent years, all feeling a deep sense of loss even as they tried to share their teammates’ joy.
While Los Angeles still has plenty of stars on offense, there is no getting around what the team lost when Kupp went down for the season.
The numbers are fairly stark. Goff completed 68.4 percent of his passes through Week 10 and had a passer rating of 113. In the six regular-season games Goff played after Kupp’s injury, those numbers were reduced to 59.8 percent and 83.9.
Coach Sean McVay put things fairly bluntly to reporters shortly after Kupp’s injury. “Anytime you lose a player of Cooper’s caliber and what he’s meant to our offense, you don’t replace guys like that,” McVay said.
But the Rams are in the Super Bowl anyway. Woods, who has largely assumed Kupp’s role in the offense, said he felt it was important for Kupp to be included in everything leading up the game because he is a big reason the team got this far.
Players miss the Super Bowl due to injury every year. Some stars make it back to the big game; others have not. Here is a look at other high-profile players who were sidelined in their first shot at the sport’s ultimate honor:
Carson Wentz, Eagles: Philadelphia’s run to a victory in Super Bowl LII over the Patriots last year was fueled by outrage about being declared under-
dogs, in large part because Wentz, the quarterback and a candidate for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award, was lost for the season after he tore a knee ligament in Week 13. With Wentz, the Eagles had been considered a favorite to win the championship.
In the weeks leading up to the Eagles’ 41-33 triumph over New England, the players and coaches rallied around backup Nick Foles, wearing rubber dog masks and relishing the idea that no one believed in them. Wentz did his best to project happiness for his teammates’ Cinderella story, while not attempting to hide his own frustration.
“Every time the offense comes on the field on Sunday, it’s tough,” Wentz said of the games he missed. “It hits me a little bit. But then I’m in it. I love these guys, and I’m a part of this team as much as anybody else.” Von Miller, Broncos: That Miller’s career survived the 2013 season is still a thing of wonder. The No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, Miller was phenomenal in his first two seasons, totaling 30 sacks. The outside linebacker began his third season under suspension after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and ended it by tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 16. He had to watch from the sidelines as his teammates were trounced by the Seattle Seahawks, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII.
He took full advantage of his chance two years later, ruining Cam Newton’s day and earning the Super Bowl 50 MVP award.
Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers: Pittsburgh had won two Super Bowls in the previous five seasons and were looking like something of a dynasty. Drafting 18th in 2010, the team selected Pouncey, a center who stepped in as a starter from Day 1 and earned a Pro Bowl spot for his exceptional play.
Pouncey, then 21, was on track to become one of the youngest starters in Super Bowl history, but he injured an ankle in Pittsburgh’s win over the Jets in the AFC Championship Game, forcing the Steelers to scramble to replace him.
The Steelers ultimately lost Super Bowl XLV, 31-25, to Green Bay, and the two-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection has yet to get another chance at the big game.
Jeremy Shockey, Giants: Shockey was in his sixth year with New York when the team unexpectedly made a run to the Super Bowl XLII in the 2007 season. Shockey had been a key part of the team’s offense from his first day in the NFL, averaging 62 catches and 705 yards a season from the tight end position, but his 2007 season ended when he broke his fibula in Week 15.
Shockey never played for the Giants again. The team traded him to the New Orleans Saints in the offseason. Things turned out fine for both sides: Shockey caught a touchdown pass for the Saints in their Super Bowl XLIV win, and the Giants upset the Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI.