Former New England Patriots RB Sony Michel 'surprised' by trade to Los Angeles Rams

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Donning a No. 14 royal blue practice jersey, running back Sony Michel stood on the sideline Thursday watching his new team, the Los Angeles Rams, hold an intrasquad scrimmage.

Only 31 hours earlier, the New England Patriots informed Michel that he had been traded to L.A.

"I was surprised," Michel said about being traded. "I would assume that most people, when they're traded, they're surprised a little bit."

A first-round pick (31st overall) in 2018, the Patriots declined to pick up the fifth-year option for 2022-23 on Michel's contract; he is scheduled to earn $1.79 million this season. In New England, Michel was among six running backs in training camp vying for a job.

Despite those circumstances, Michel said a trade was not something he thought about "at all."

"Last two days kind of just been, the best way I can put it is football terminology, sudden change," Michel said. "It's like, something suddenly happens and you just got to get ready to kind of execute. Not much time could be wasted. Just kind of got to get up, get ready to go and kind of get adjusted, acclimated with the new adjustment."

With the Rams, Michel provides much-needed reinforcement to a running back corps that has suffered several injuries as it prepares for the 2021 season.

In the days leading up to training camp, projected starter Cam Akers tore his right Achilles tendon, which will sideline him for the season. Darrell Henderson Jr. moved into the starting role but is now nursing a mild thumb sprain as he continues through practices, and Raymond Calais Jr., who was listed fourth on the depth chart, suffered a broken foot in a preseason game and was waived with an injury designation.

Rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk and second-year pro Xavier Jones, an undrafted free agent in 2020, have been competing throughout camp to play behind Henderson.

Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday that Michel offers a physical presence in the position group.

"It was an opportunity to acquire a really good player that's had a lot of success," McVay said. "We feel good about the running back situation, but some of the volatility of what Darrell has gone through, even just throughout the course of camp, wanted to make sure you got somebody else that's played in big-time games."

In 28 starts over three seasons, Michel has rushed for 2,292 yards and 14 touchdowns.

In a 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, Michel rushed for 94 yards and scored the only touchdown of the game.

When asked what he remembered about his new teammate from the Super Bowl, defensive lineman Aaron Donald smirked. "I don't want to talk about it," he said.

Michel's role and how many carries will be distributed between him, Henderson and the rest of the group is yet to be determined. Still, McVay expressed confidence that despite Michel's late arrival to training camp, he will be ready for the season opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 12.

"Everything I've heard about Sony and the way that he's wired mentally and just the way that he goes about his business, I do anticipate him being a quick study," McVay said. "The goal is to have him ready to go and be a big-time contributor on the 12th."

Though Michel's participation in practice Thursday was limited to position drills, he closely huddled with Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown, who also served as his position coach at Georgia, throughout the intrasquad scrimmage in attempt to get a jump start on learning the offense.

"That's the big goal, that's the big question," Michel said when asked how quickly he could pick up the offense and the playbook. "That's my goal to dive in and learn as much as I can and try to stay on it and just keep learning. That's all I can do right now."