By Cedric Williams
One day after learning he had been selected to his first Pro Bowl, Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein found out the best season of his career was going to end two weeks early, after the team placed him on injured reserved due to a herniated disc in his back.
Zuerlein, who was on pace to set a new NFL record for points scored in a season by a kicker, will have surgery on Thursday. The recovery for such a procedure could take up to 12 weeks, which means even if the Rams advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, Zuerlein would unable to play again this year.
“You’re sick for him because of what he’s meant to this team, and I know how badly it hurts him,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “And he’s done everything in his power to try to get to this point. I can’t stress enough what a gutsy performance it was for him to even play in the Seattle game, which a lot of people don’t realize.”
It had been reported that Zuerlein was battling soreness in his back for most of the season, but he was able to play through it. Before the Seattle game though, Zuerlein’s back flared up on him the night before.
The team and coaches weren’t even sure he’d be able to kick the day of the game. He did, and was able to help the Rams to a convincing 42-7 win over the Seahawks.
By the end of the game, Zuerlein was experiencing serious pain. So much so that following a couple of short kickoffs and a missed extra point, the Rams decided they weren’t going to use Zuerlein on any more kicks on Sunday.
In fact, the Rams even went for it on a fourth-down play when their usual procedure would’ve been to attempt a field goal.
“I think I kind of took for granted how serious it could potentially be at any time, until it ends up flaring up like this,” McVay said. “It kind of all came to a head.”
And now Zuerlein’s season is over. To find a replacement, the Rams brought in 10 free agent kickers to workouts at the team facility on Wednesday. When all was said and done, LA signed former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken.
Ficken, who went undrafted in 2015 but has been on the rosters of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs before, will get his first chance to kick in an NFL regular season game this Sunday when the Rams take on the Tennessee Titans.