Todd Gurley's knee: More questions and 'shades of gray' for Rams

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead sat alongside Eric Weddle on Tuesday as they introduced the veteran safety as their newly signed free agent.

The topic, however, turned -- as it has since he inexplicably disappeared in the NFC Championship Game -- to running back Todd Gurley II and the status of his left knee.

Snead was asked multiple times if Gurley has arthritis in his knee, which was surgically repaired in 2014, and which kept him sidelined because of inflammation and soreness in the final two games of the regular season.

But Snead repeatedly avoided the question.

"What we said is he's had a lot of carries over the last few years," Snead said. "And so anything you hear us say, any plan is basically hey -- and I would say this not just with Todd Gurley, right, it might be with our wide receivers because they've played a lot of snaps over the last few years -- is hey, what can we do to help those guys be as fresh as possible at the end of the season."

Last season, Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards and scored a league-best 21 touchdowns in 14 games. Including the postseason, Gurley had 286 carries.

Snead was asked to verify the accuracy of a report, citing unnamed sources, that said Gurley has arthritis.

Snead responded: "That would be good then, because all you got to do is take Aleve. Right?"

And finally, when told that it was a "yes" or "no" question, Snead provided no definitive answer.

"With all NFL players when it comes to trying to be fresh at the end of the year, there is an element of probably shades of gray of how fresh you are and what that reason is," Snead said. "So I would counter your, 'It's either a yes or a no.' I’m not sure you've ever gone through a 16-game NFL season, but if you have you probably would understand that shade of gray."

McVay also was asked if Gurley was hindered by arthritis late in the season. "I don't know exactly medically when you categorize what arthritis is," McVay said, adding, "I do know that just from the amount of work that he's had, there's been a wear and tear on that knee."

As questions loom over Gurley's knee, and whether he is suffering from a potential long-term ailment, this much is certain: Gurley, who last July signed a four-year extension worth $60 million, with $45 million guaranteed, remains the Rams' starting running back.

But the Rams also are intent on fielding a second back who can be depended on to carry some of the load.

Budget allowing, C.J. Anderson is a priority to bring back in free agency. Malcolm Brown, who received an original-round tender on Tuesday, also is a candidate to get more time in the backfield.

Brown suffered a clavicle injury in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions that sidelined him for the season. Before the injury, Brown proved himself as a reliable backup as he rushed for 212 yards in 43 carries and caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Anderson was cut by three teams last season before he joined the Rams in mid-December. In Gurley's absence, the sixth-year pro rushed for a combined 299 yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

"I got a really good gut that if we go the free-agent route it will be re-signing C.J.," Snead said. "Because the key was you want all those guys to complement each other. So that would be my gut in free agency."

Gurley and Anderson shared the load in a divisional-round win over the Dallas Cowboys as they combined for 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns. McVay said their performance inspired a game plan that included shared carries in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIII.

But the duo was unable to duplicate their success. In a victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, Gurley spent a majority of the game on the sideline and was ineffective and out of sync as he tallied 13 total yards in five touches. And in the Super Bowl, Gurley was limited to 35 yards in 10 carries in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

McVay has repeatedly shouldered the blame for Gurley's lack of touches in the postseason and has vowed to improve on a game plan that resulted in a dismal offensive performance in the Super Bowl.

But when asked Tuesday if there was any concern Gurley might not be the same player going forward, McVay offered little reassurance.

"You got to let it play itself out," he said, adding, "Like anything else, it's an ongoing evaluation."