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Rams WR Kupp expected to make season debut vs. Eagles

Cooper Kupp Los Angeles Rams Cooper Kupp - The Canadian Press

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Cooper Kupp has watched with admiration from the sidelines while Matthew Stafford, rookie Puka Nacua and the Los Angeles Rams fielded one of the NFL's best passing offenses in the first four games of the season.

Kupp is finally ready to make it even better.

The Super Bowl 56 MVP is expected to make his season debut when the Rams host Philadelphia on Sunday.

Kupp returned to practice this week with the Rams (2-2) after missing the first month of the regular season with a hamstring injury. The 30-year-old receiver was hurt early in training camp, and he aggravated the injury in late August.

“It’s been a long time since I played a real football game,” Kupp said Friday. “I’m so excited about that, but watching these guys has been so much fun.”

Kupp hasn’t played since Week 10 in mid-November 2022. He missed the final eight games of last season with an ankle injury after catching 75 passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns.

The Rams crashed to the worst record by a defending Super Bowl champion at 5-12 last year without Kupp, Stafford or Aaron Donald down the stretch. They've rebounded solidly this season with an uninjured Stafford throwing expertly to Kupp's supporting group of receivers, and the elder statesman of the wideout room says he's “not surprised at all” by their success.

Nacua has been the most productive receiver in NFL history through the first four games of a career with 39 catches for 501 yards, while Tutu Atwell has excelled as a speedy deep threat with 22 catches for 270 yards. Adding Kupp's famed route-running, soft hands and knack for yards after the catch seems highly likely to make Los Angeles even tougher to defend.

“I’ve seen the way these guys have been working,” Kupp said. “I’ve unfortunately had to watch exactly how they’re working for a long time now. They’re efficient in the way they do things. They ask the right questions. They play for each other. All the makings of what you need to be a successful football team, all of that stuff is there. ... We’re growing, and I think the guys are working toward something pretty special.”

Coach Sean McVay said Kupp will be activated from injured reserve and will play at SoFi Stadium “unless something different happens in the next 48 hours.” After finally shaking off the hamstring injury that required a trip to a specialist in Minnesota, Kupp had no limitations in practice this week.

“He's looked like Cooper, which is a good thing,” McVay said. “He's put a lot of work in. You can't really ever simulate the game in these practice settings, but he's very comfortable. He's so conscientious. He looks like he's moving around really well. Just having his presence out there is definitely a boost.”

Kupp has been a productive receiver whenever healthy in his seven-year career, but he had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history in 2021, winning the triple crown of receiving before starring in the Rams' run to their Super Bowl championship. Along with his Super Bowl MVP award after catching the winning TD pass in Los Angeles' victory over Cincinnati, Kupp won the AP's NFL Offensive Player of the Year award.

“I’m really happy for him because of how important it is to be out there and with his teammates and to be able to feel physically like he’s himself,” McVay said. “If that’s the case, then usually the rest just takes care of itself.”

McVay also said offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom won't play against the unbeaten Eagles due to a groin injury. Left tackle Alaric Jackson has been limited in practice all week by a hamstring injury, but he is expected to play.

Noteboom began the season as the Rams' starting right guard, but he returned to left tackle after Jackson got hurt this season. New acquisition Kevin Dotson stepped into Noteboom's spot at right guard last week.