EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the Los Angeles Rams head into the offseason, they have a handful of players working their way back from season-ending injuries, especially on defense.
And while the recoveries of end Robert Quinn (back), linebacker Alec Ogletree (leg/ankle) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (foot) are all key, safety T.J. McDonald getting back to full strength could be of particular importance.
McDonald suffered a season-ending shoulder injury late in the season and had surgery about a month ago to have it repaired. When speaking to reporters after the last game of the season, McDonald had his right arm in a sling and was clearly uncomfortable.
"I’m feeling a lot better," McDonald said then. "I’m on my way to recovery and getting ready to go for next year. I think I got a head start. It’s a six-week timeframe, but I got a head start having the surgery early so as long as I’m on schedule I’m good. We’ve definitely got a good plan in place and I’ll be ready to go.
"I’ve got to deal with it. Just having (the sling) on right now in this interview is annoying."
McDonald was having a productive 2015 season with 62 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup in 11 games before the injury ended his year. That production came despite a handful of nagging injuries, such as the shin ailment that kept him out for parts of the offseason program.
Getting McDonald back to full strength is necessary for a Rams secondary that has a lot of questions around him. Four of McDonald's fellow starters on the back end are slated to become unrestricted free agents. That includes cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and safeties Rodney McLeod and Mark Barron, who prefers to be referred to as a weak side safety instead of a linebacker.
The Rams would like to keep all four players and will make an effort to do so, but McDonald knows there's a chance he could be surrounded by a different group upon his return.
"I just hope we get them all back," McDonald said. "We definitely built some good chemistry. I hope we get them all back. I understand there is a business side of it, too, so we’ll see how it goes but I definitely hope we’ll all stay here together."
McDonald, who will be returning to his USC roots with the team going back to Los Angeles, believes that with a little continuity created by what will require a whole lot of money, the team's young secondary can keep growing into one of the league's best.
"I feel like earlier in the season we were one of the best secondaries in this league," McDonald said. "We have two great corners and me and Rodney have been working together in tandem. We felt confident going into every game no matter what quarterback we were facing, so coming into next season, we have high expectations for ourselves, especially if we can all stay together. We’re definitely going to be excited for next season."