May 18, 2024

Cooper Kupp aims to return to the standard.

The Rams’ veteran receiver established it in 2021, when he played in every game and achieved the so-called triple crown by leading the NFL in catches, yards receiving and touchdown receptions.

During two injury-plagued seasons that limited him to 21 games, however, Kupp did not come close to consistently performing at that level.

As he prepares for his eighth season, Kupp is confident he can recapture his 2021 form.

“I don’t know if I would be still playing if I didn’t think that that was still who I was,” Kupp said Monday during a news conference in Thousand Oaks. “That is who I believe myself to be. … I’m counting on myself to get there for my teammates.”

Monday marked the start of the second week of the Rams’ voluntary offseason workouts. The Rams, coming off a 10-7 record and playoff appearance, are expected to contend for the playoffs and possibly a second Super Bowl title in four years.

Kupp, wearing a tank top, appears fit and larger through his upper body.

The seven-year veteran has spent weeks working out at home in preparation for the team activities. He invited second-year pro Puka Nacua to join him.

Nacua, who enjoyed a record-setting rookie season in 2023, said last week that the first week of workouts with the highly motivated Kupp were the toughest.

“I think I threw up every day of the week,” Nacua said. “He wasn’t a fan of that, because it was on his lawn and stuff. He was like, ‘You’re throwing up in my bushes Puka, thanks.’

“But it was super fun. … Following Coop’s plan made it super easy and centered me in the right way.”

Kupp joked he was “not a huge fan” of Nacua’s vomiting.

“The landscaping bill goes up a little bit,” he said, “but that’s all right. We’ll put up with that.”

As with Kupp, the Rams are anticipating the 2021 NFL offensive player of the year will bounce back from his struggles the last two seasons.

Kupp, a third-round draft pick in 2017, will turn 31 in June.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp misses a pass in the end zone last season as Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor pursues.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp misses a pass in the end zone last season as Saints cornerback Alontae Taylor pursues.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

During his record-setting 2021 season, Kupp caught 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught two touchdown passes in a Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and was voted Super Bowl MVP.

As a reward, the Rams gave Kupp a three-year contract extension that included $75 million in guarantees. It remains the largest guarantee among NFL receivers, according to Overthecap.com.

An ankle injury marred Kupp’s 2022 season, however, one of many injuries that contributed to the Rams’ historically bad Super Bowl hangover. In nine games, Kupp caught 75 passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns.

Before last season, Kupp was absent for most offseason workouts to be with his family as they awaited the birth of a third child. Kupp appeared physically sound when training camp began, but he was soon sidelined because of a hamstring injury that lingered.

He began the season on injured reserve, opening the door for Nacua to emerge as quarterback Matthew Stafford’s primary target.

Kupp returned for the fifth game of the season, and he initially looked fine, amassing more than 100 yards receiving in consecutive games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. Kupp appeared to struggle for most of the rest of the season, however, and finished with 59 catches for 737 yards and five touchdowns.

This season, Kupp will carry a salary-cap number of $29.8 million, second only to Stafford’s $49.5 million.

“Last year really bothered Cooper — that’s just who he is,” Rams general manager Les Snead said last month at the NFL owners’ annual meeting, adding that his only concern going into this season was that Kupp might overtrain. “Those types of competitors, they almost feel guilty for not being 100%.”

Kupp said he has learned to be “present” and enjoys “being exactly where I need to be.”

“I believe that the work that I do … how I prepare, all that stuff’s going to be there for me to be the productive player that I know that I am,” he said. “And I look forward to being able to get out there this year and play some good football.”

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