"He's done such a great job. What a resilient, tough-minded guy," Rams coach Sean McVay said Thursday about Akers' rehabilitation effort. "Can't wait to get him back out there. When that is, is something that we're going to continue to work through."
The Rams (10-4) are tied for first place in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals (10-4) as they prepare for a matchup against the Minnesota Vikings (7-7) at US Bank Stadium on Sunday. Three games remain in the regular season, and the Rams are tracking to make a playoff run.
McVay clarified a report from earlier Thursday, saying that while Akers has been cleared to return, he did not take the field for practice.
The Rams have 21 days to activate Akers to the roster. McVay said the team will use caution in bringing him back but expects Akers to play a role this season.
"It's not something that he's going to be ready to go this week," McVay said. "It's going to be a progressive build."
When Akers returns, he will join a running back group that has recently established itself behind Sony Michel, who has started the past three games, and Darrell Henderson Jr., who recently has dealt with a quadriceps injury and also a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
"We're going to have a lot of good depth at that position and be able to have some fun things that we can do moving forward," McVay said.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford said having Akers add to the team's running back depth will be a "good problem to have" as they enter the stretch and prepare for a potential playoff run.
"It's such a physical position, at some point along the way somebody is going to be dealing with something, probably," Stafford said. "So the more the merrier."
A second-round pick from Florida State, Akers finished his rookie season as the Rams' leading rusher with 625 yards, which included a 171-rushing yard performance in a Week 14 rout of the New England Patriots. He also anchored the backfield in the playoffs as he rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in a wild card win over the Seattle Seahawks and then rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown the following week in a divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
As a second-year pro, Akers was expected to start with Henderson playing a complementary role. However, in the days leading toe training camp Akers suffered a torn right Achilles tendon during a private workout.
Because of the nature of the injury, it was initially thought that Akers would miss the entire 2021 season, but McVay said he knew a couple of months ago there was a chance that he would be able to return.
"I would say we kind of had an idea that he was really accelerating his rehab and making great progress," McVay said. "He's a freak, in a good way."
Henderson leads the Rams with 671 rushing yards, and Michel has rushed for 597, including 292 over the past three games.