He is not all the way back, but Jalen Ramsey is getting close.
The Rams’ star cornerback had offseason shoulder surgery. Early in training camp, he mainly worked with trainers and helped coach teammates before rejoining full-team drills in the latter part of the team’s stay at UC Irvine.
On Wednesday, Ramsey took another major step during a joint practice with the Cincinnati Bengals.
That was evident when he burst in front of Bengals receiver Tee Higgins and broke up a pass from quarterback Joe Burrow, barely missing on an interception and pick six.
“Not yet,” Ramsey said when asked if he was playing at full strength. “But I will be when the time is right.”
The practices between last season’s Super Bowl participants offer Ramsey and other starters their lone preseason opportunity to work against opponents other than teammates. The Rams and Bengals will practice again Thursday before their final preseason game Saturday night.
Ramsey, a three-time All-Pro, said he was “just being careful right now” as he prepares for the season, which begins Sept. 8 against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.
The practices with the Bengals offer Ramsey and other defensive backs the opportunity to work against a receiving corps that includes Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd.
“That’s as good as it gets,” McVay said of Cincinnati’s pass-catchers.
During the Rams’ 23-20 Super Bowl victory. over the Bengals, Higgins grabbed Ramsey’s facemask before catching a 75-yard touchdown pass.
Ramsey matched up several times against Higgins and Chase on Wednesday.
During a break, he also approached Burrow.
Was that just a visit?
“Yeah,” Ramsey said, “something like that.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford looked sharp: Stafford showed no signs of a sore elbow. For the first 45 minutes of practice, which included seven-on-seven drills inside the 20-yard line and full team drills, not one of Stafford’s passes hit the ground.
During one stretch, he connected on consecutive plays with receiver Cooper Kupp for touchdowns.
“The ball is coming out of his hand really nicely, got the same pepper on it,” Kupp said. “He’s still hauling the ball down the field, so everything looks good from my end.”
Bengals safety Jessie Bates, who signed a franchise tender Tuesday, and cornerback Eli Apple did not practice.
Receiver Tutu Atwell is going deep: During an intrasquad scrimmage last week, Stafford missed on a long pass to the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Atwell.
On Wednesday, Atwell outran defenders and tracked a perfectly thrown pass for a 50-yard gain.
Atwell had several other catches, continuing his improved play from his rookie season.
Receiver Allen Robinson getting timing down with Stafford: Stafford did not throw passes during offseason works and minicamp and was limited during training camp.
So Wednesday was the first time Robinson caught passes from Stafford with players other than Rams defensive backs challenging him. Robinson made several tough catches, and just missed hauling in a few others.
Rookie running back Kyren Williams carries on: With Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson still held out of full-speed drills because of injuries, Williams got a heavy workload. He ran hard and caught many passes.
Akers and Henderson took reps during a walkthrough period in the middle of the workout.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner is a good fit: Wagner, a six-time All-Pro, commanded the Rams defense and made several plays. The combination of Wagner and Ernest Jones gives defensive coordinator Raheem Morris flexibility.
The defensive line looked stout: There was no tackling or hitting the quarterback, but Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines and other defensive linemen pressured Burrow. Edge rushers Leonard Floyd and Justin Hollins also got into the backfield.
The Sean McVay influence is evident in the Bengals’ practice pace: Bengals coach Zac Taylor coached for two seasons on McVay’s Rams staff and acknowledged that he borrowed heavily in how workouts are structured.
Taylor said he was so busy during the run-up to the Super Bowl, he did not have time to schedule joint practices with other teams.
“We wouldn’t have practiced with anybody had Sean not called,” Taylor said. “Because most of the dancing partners got snatched up while we were going to the Super Bowl. … I thought that ship had sailed and then Sean called and asked if they were willing to come out here, would we be willing to practice together, and I said, ‘Yep, we’d love to.‘ ”
No players came to blows: Joint practices often feature scuffles. But on a on a warm and humid day there was only one minor flare-up between linemen and it ended quickly.
“I think it’s two teams with high character,” Taylor said before the workout.