THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Greg Zuerlein, who was on pace to set an NFL scoring record for a kicker, was placed on injured reserve by the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday, a little more than two weeks before the start of the playoffs.
Zuerlein will have surgery in L.A. on Thursday morning to repair a herniated disk, a procedure that typically comes with a 12-week recovery process.
The Rams tried out about 10 kickers during two separate workouts at their facility Wednesday -- including notables such as Travis Coons and Roberto Aguayo -- and signed former Penn State kicker Sam Ficken.
"All we can do is hopefully put him in good spots to be able to deliver," said Rams coach Sean McVay, whose team is 10-4 and can clinch the NFC West with a win or a Seattle Seahawks loss this weekend. "When you make decisions like this, it's why you bring guys in for a workout. You empower and you trust [special teams coordinator] John Fassel to be able to make the best decision for our team, and you hope that it'll end up working out. That's the only way to go about it."
Zuerlein was named to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday and was leading the NFL with 158 points, on pace to top the 166 put up by former San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers in 2011. Zuerlein made 38 of 40 field goal attempts -- including 6 of 7 from 50 or more yards -- and 44 of 46 extra points.
He did it, McVay said, while pushing through a sore back.
Zuerlein had been kicking through some back issues throughout the year, but they never kept him out of practice, and they never threatened his availability for a game until Sunday, when Zuerlein's disk flared up on him while sleeping the night before the Rams' matchup against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, an eventual 42-7 win.
Zuerlein played, but most of his kickoffs were short, and he missed an extra point. The back pain was so bad that the Rams even went for it on a late fourth-down attempt despite leading big in the second half.
"You're sick for him because of what he's meant to this team, and I know how badly it hurts him," 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."
McVay was aware that Zuerlein was experiencing issues with his back, but never really knew the extent of them. Zuerlein and the Rams were hoping he could continue to kick throughout it and get it taken care of after the season. But the pain he experienced in Seattle became too much to tolerate.
"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."