THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Matthew Stafford understands why the football world is still talking about his elbow.
After all, he followed up the Los Angeles Rams' Super Bowl victory by not throwing passes in any offseason workouts, participating sparingly in training camp and sitting out all three preseason games — all to avoid aggravating the elbow condition that coach Sean McVay called "a little bit abnormal for a quarterback."
Stafford understands, but he's also a bit tired of talking about it himself.
"I feel great," Stafford said Sunday. "Ready to go play. Can always be better. Can always try to feel like I'm 21 again. I'll keep trying. But no, I feel really good. Feel I can make every throw. I don't know what else you need to hear from me."
The veteran passer is eager to end the discussions Thursday night when he takes the field at SoFi Stadium for the NFL's regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. Stafford and McVay both say the quarterback will have no limitations while leading the Rams' high-octane passing offense against the NFL's best team in pass defense last season.
The discussion around Stafford's elbow has done nothing to minimize the impressiveness of his achievements last season, After 12 prolific seasons of frustration with the Detroit Lions, he transformed his NFL story and moved to the brink of the 50,000-yard club — he'll become the 12th member in NFL history with his first 5 yards passing this season.
Stafford moved west and immediately won a ring with poised, resilient play, particularly during the first four playoff victories of his career. He matched the highest completion percentage of his career while throwing for 4,886 yards and a career high-tying 41 touchdowns.
But Stafford also played through elbow pain last season when he was still learning the intricacies of McVay's offense and building chemistry with his new receivers. A year later, that chemistry is established with most of his potential playmakers, and he knows the offense inside-out.
That gives him more leeway to rest his arm, and the Rams decided he should use it.
"I think we've got a really good plan in place, no different than last year," McVay said. "These were things that he was kind of working through in his own way ... but he's throwing the ball excellent. Everything I'm seeing is reflective of everything he's saying to me."
McVay said the Rams are "always cognizant of a pitch clock," but Stafford has no inherent limitations. If the quarterback needed to throw 50 times, McVay said they wouldn't hesitate to do it.
Stafford and the Rams have been purposely imprecise when talking about the specifics of his elbow soreness, but he had an offseason injection that helped. He is on a regimen of exercises and workouts to keep the joint in good shape.
"I've been doing some things that made it feel better," Stafford said. "Probably going to continue to do those things if you need to, and if you don't, then you just go out there and play ball."
Stafford has a year of history with all of his potential receivers except Allen Robinson, the Rams' biggest offseason free agent signing on offense. They've worked together whenever possible since the start of training camp, and they expect to have much less trouble getting on the same page than two players without their years of experience. Robinson caught several long passes from Stafford on Sunday in the first periods of practice.
Stafford is eager to get back into game action, and he also might get a little extra motivation if he looks across the sideline Thursday at Chad Hall, the Bills' high-energy receivers coach. Hall happens to be the brother of Stafford's wife, Kelly.
"One of my best friends, to be honest with you," Stafford said. "A guy I spend a ton of offseason time with. I think even if I wasn't married to his sister that we'd be really good buddies, too. ... It'll be fun going up against him. Obviously he's not in the pads, but he'll be running up and down the sideline like a madman like he usually does, cheering them on."
A LOCKER FOR BECKHAM
When reporters were allowed into the Rams' locker room at the team's training complex Sunday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the locker of one player in particular stood out: Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham is currently a free agent recovering from knee surgery after he made a touchdown catch in the Super Bowl and then tore knee ligaments, but the Rams have actively recruited the veteran to return for several months.
That pitch clearly includes keeping Beckham's locker free for him — complete with nameplate — if he decides to return.
The former Giants and Browns wideout joined Los Angeles as a midseason acquisition and turned into a key component of the Rams' offense. He caught 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns in eight regular season games, and he added 21 catches for 288 yards and two more scores in the Rams' four playoff games.
NOTES: WR Van Jefferson is still "day to day" after undergoing knee surgery early in training camp, McVay said. The Rams provided no update on his progress, but his long absence from practice makes it unlikely that the wideout who started all 21 games for Los Angeles last season will be ready to play Thursday. ... Ozzy Osbourne will perform at halftime Thursday in Inglewood.