Rams face busy bye week with assistant coaches in demand

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — It will be a busy bye week for the Los Angeles Rams on and off the field as they prepare for a NFC divisional playoff game at home on Jan. 12.

Cincinnati and Arizona have made formal requests to interview quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor for their vacant head coaching positions, while the Bengals would also like to speak with passing game coordinator Shane Waldron, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

Taylor and Waldron will be available for interviews in Los Angeles on Friday and Saturday when Rams players have those days off.

Taylor, 35, is in his first season as the Rams quarterbacks coach. Waldron, 39, has coached the Rams tight ends for the past two seasons.

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“You’d hate to lose them, but man, I’d sure be so happy for them if that was an opportunity that they decided to pursue and it worked out for them and their families,” McVay said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job with us and I feel lucky to work with guys like that.”

McVay said he would offer whatever assistance he could to help Taylor and Waldron prepare for those meeting, but the focus of the week will be self-scouting and preparing for any of their three possible opponents in Chicago, Dallas or Seattle.

A win by the Bears over defending Super Bowl champions Philadelphia on Sunday would see Los Angeles host the Chicago the following weekend.

The Rams have already faced the Bears and Seahawks in the regular season, winning both games against Seattle, 33-31 on the road on Oct. 7 and 36-31 at home on Nov. 11, and losing 15-6 at Chicago on Dec. 9.

Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold said there would be advantages to facing an opponent the Rams are already familiar with and hinted he would relish the chance to see the Bears again.

“Once again, things happen for a reason,” Saffold said. “You learn from them and continue going, so maybe some of those losses that we had were getting us ready for the game we have coming up in the divisional round. But at the end of the day, we just have to take care of business no matter who it is.”

When the Rams hold on-field workouts Wednesday and Thursday, the focus will be on the health of running back Todd Gurley and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Gurley missed the final two games of the season because of inflammation in his knee, and Whitworth left the 48-32 win over San Francisco on Sunday in the second quarter because of a knee injury and did not return.

Whitworth said he felt “great” and was pleased with how rookie Joe Noteboom played against the 49ers in his absence.

“Anytime the young guys get a chance to get in there and get some snap, it’s good,” Whitworth said. “It’s good for the team, good for the future of the team.”

Whitworth is expected to practice this week, but McVay did not know if Gurley would participate. Even if Gurley is limited this week as a precaution, McVay is confident the NFL leader with 21 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns this season would be available when the Rams try to win their first playoff game in Los Angeles since defeating the Cowboys 20-0 on Jan. 4, 1986.

“I would be very, very surprised if he wasn’t going to be ready to go for the playoffs, but I think we’re going to be smart with whether he goes or not this week with those extra days,” McVay said.

The open week is new for Whitworth, who will be playing in the postseason for the seventh time in his 13-year career. The Rams had their bye in Week 12, which has Whitworth placing a greater emphasis on making the improvements necessary to contend for a championship than recovering physically.

“For us, as late as our bye was and the kind of way the season has worked out, I mean, we don’t really feel a need for necessarily a break as much as an opportunity to just fine-tune and really get ourselves clicking on all cylinders for the final stretch,” Whitworth said.

NOTES: DB Blake Countess is in concussion protocol. Countess did not show any symptoms Monday after exiting in the first quarter against San Francisco on Sunday. . After taking two days off, the Rams will go into their normal game week schedule when they reconvene on Sunday.

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