For this first Super Bowl from a 17-game season, the damage was rather limited for the two contenders. If a few incumbents are missing, the stars are present.
Injured but present: CJ Uzomah (TE)
Touched early in the game in the conference final, CJ Uzomah should hold his place and offer an additional solution to Joe Burrow. The tight end is determined to play the game of his life.
“I feel good, as good as possible under the circumstances. In my head, I’m not missing the biggest game of my life,” said Uzomah on Thursday.
Absent: Larry Ogunjobi (DL), Joseph Ossai (DE), Riley Reiff (OT), Akeem Davis-Gaither (LB), Darius Phillips (CB), Joe Bachie (LB), Jordan Evans (LB), Brandon Wilson (S)
Touched at the start of the playoffs, Larry Ogunjobi will miss the heart of the defensive line of Cincinnati. Arriving from Cleveland last offseason, it has established itself as a fundamental first-curtain jersey. With 43 tackles including 7 sacks, his penetration strength will be lacking for Zac Taylor’s men.
Another absentee on the offensive line this time, the experienced Riley Reiff will not protect Joe Burrow. Holder most of the season, the former Minnesota player injured his ankle in week 14. The second curtain will lack depth with the combined absences of Davis-Gaither, Evans and Bachie. The rotation on the position will therefore be limited.
Los Angeles Rams
Injured but present: Sebastian Joseph-Day (DL), Darrell Henderson (RB), Robert Rochell (BC)
Unavailable for 3 months, Sebastian Joseph-Day should return at the best time for his team. Operated from a pectoral injury, the defensive lineman, indisputable holder alongside Aaron Donald, is a strong reinforcement in view of the trench battle. It remains to be seen whether the lack of rhythm will not put him in difficulty.
Absent since week 16, runner Darrell Henderson should be available on Sunday. His trainer Sean McVay confirmed it at a press conference this week.
“I think Darrell is ready to go,” said the coach.
But with Sony Michel and especially the return of Cam Akers absent throughout the regular season, Henderson could only be used on certain sequences and should not play the major role he was able to play during the first half of the season.
Absent: Tyler Higbee (TE), Joe Noteboom (OT), Robert Woods (WR), Tutu Atwell (WR), Jordan Fuller (S), Raymond Calais (RB), Jamil Demby (OL), Jacob Harris (TE), Johnny Mundt (YOU)
He hoped until the end, but Tyler Higbee will not take part in the Super Bowl. Hit in the knee in the conference final the tight end was placed on the injured list on Friday. Terribly infuriating for him. Same fate the same day for Joe Noteboom, hit in the chest.
Injured since mid-season, Robert Woods will be conspicuously absent from the Rams attack. Receiver number 1 bis, Woods formed with Cooper Kupp one of the most productive duos in the league. Coincidentally, Woods’ injury occurred at the same time as Odell Beckham’s arrival. Los Angeles was therefore able to replace him numerically without losing talent. Another absent target, the rookie Tutu Atwell had a first season largely disturbed by injuries. Never used in the game, its absence will not be missed by Matthew Stafford.
On the other side of the ball, incumbent safety Jordan Fuller also forfeited the playoff campaign. Big tackler and essential in the Californian defense, the former Ohio State player leaves a find in the backfield. But the coaching staff brought in retired veteran Eric Weddle to help the Rams in their quest for the title.