THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Sony Michel might have been the only person around the NFL who was shocked to hear he had been traded by the New England Patriots.
The running back still seems pleased he landed with the Los Angeles Rams.
After Michel suited up to watch his first practice with the Rams from the sideline at their training complex Thursday, the Super Bowl star claimed he was blindsided by the deal sending him away from New England for a conditional selection of low-round draft picks.
“I was surprised,” Michel said. “I would assume that most people, when they’re traded, they’re surprised a little bit.”
Just about everybody else around the league knew the Patriots' 2019 Super Bowl hero against the Rams was highly likely to be moved after the team declined his fifth-year option earlier this year, making him a free agent in 2022.
New England has a glut of talented ball-carriers, and while Michel has been excellent when healthy, his injury problems and contract uncertainty made him an obvious candidate for a move to a contender needing a quick fix in the backfield.
A candidate obvious to everybody but the candidate himself, that is: Michel insisted he had no conversations with his agent or other representatives about the likelihood he would be playing elsewhere this season.
Michel intends to get over the shock quickly after joining a winning team with Super Bowl aspirations and a famously solid team culture.
“My goal is to dive in and learn as much as I can, and then to stay on it," Michel said. “Not much time to be wasted. Just got to get up, get ready to go and get adjusted, acclimated.”
The Rams need exactly what Michel can provide when healthy. They've lost starter Cam Akers and backup Raymond Calais for the season with injuries, and new starter Darrell Henderson's iffy injury history prompted the Rams to make the latest in their long series of bold moves for Super Bowl-hungry veterans — most recently Matthew Stafford, the quarterback who will be handing the ball to Michel.
Coach Sean McVay said he hopes Michel will be “a big-time contributor” starting from Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.
“It was the opportunity to acquire a really good player that's had a lot of success," McVay said. “He offers a physical presence to our room, and really we feel good about the running back situation, but some of the volatility with what Darrell has gone through, (we) wanted to make sure you've got somebody else that's played in big-time games, that brings a physical presence to that room. ... Darrell is still going to have a really big role. Doesn't really change the outlook for him, and then we'll see how quickly we can get Sony up to speed."
Michel already is close to Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown, who held the same job at Georgia in 2015 when Michel was with the Bulldogs. Brown has the primary responsibility of getting Michel ready for opening night.
“The anticipation is he’s coming in here to participate and be a big factor,” McVay said. “How big of a factor remains to be determined.”
McVay, the Rams and the whole Los Angeles area already know what Michel can do when healthy: Perhaps the two biggest games of his football career have Southern California connections.
Michel ran for 181 yards and scored four touchdowns, including the game-winner in double overtime, for Georgia in the 2018 Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Just over 13 months later, he rushed for 94 yards and scored the only touchdown as a rookie in New England's Super Bowl victory over Los Angeles.
“That was another competitive game,” Michel said. “There was some great plays on that side of the ball. We had some great players, and fortunately we came out on top, but now I'm on the other side. Let's see if we can get something happening.”
His new teammates don't have similarly fond memories of Michel's brilliance in Atlanta.
“I don't want to talk about it,” All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald said with a grin when asked about Michel's Super Bowl performance.
NOTES: McVay said DT A'Shawn Robinson will be out “for the next few weeks” after what the coach termed ”a minor procedure" on his knee. Robinson is expected to play a major role this season after the departure of longtime starter Michael Brockers, but Los Angeles is fairly deep on the defensive line. ... LB Obo Okoronkwo is having issues related to the stinger in his shoulder that kept him out of practice Thursday. McVay acknowledged it could be cause for a long-term concern, but the Rams are waiting to see how quickly the injury calms.
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