IRVINE, Calif. - In wake of the injuries at linebacker last season, Kenny Young at one point looked around and realized he and Troy Reeder were the position's only healthy options.
That meant a lot of reps in practice, and eventually games. Young joked on Tuesday that he asked Travin Howard if he could come back during the last quarter of the season so that workload could get scaled back.
Fortunately, those reps at 2021 Training Camp presented by UNIFY Financial Credit Union are more balanced, thanks to Howard being back at full strength.
"We chop it up, we spent some time in the offseason talking about what will goals look like for ourselves, and he's in the right spirit, in the right mind," Young said. "He's back healthy. And he loves he loves ball for sure."
Howard was in the mix competing for a starting linebacker spot last year before a preseason knee injury prematurely ended his season before it could even begin. Now healthy, he said it's great to be back and have the same opportunity ahead of him.
"I got my legs up under me, I'm running well," Howard told theRams.com after the team's third training camp practice. "Being with my brothers out here, it just feels good to play football again and just be out here. I feel like I missed a year. I missed out on a lot."
At the time Rams head coach Sean McVay announced the season-ending surgery required to fix Howard's torn meniscus, he said it was "unfortunate" given the hard work Howard put in to put himself in position to be an impact player for their defense. In 2019, Howard began the season as a special teams contributor before becoming a contributor on defense over the final quarter of the season. Appearing in all 16 games, he logged 22 total tackles and three pass breakups.
Fortunately, Howard had a strong support system in wake of his 2020 season going in a different direction than anticipated. He leaned on his mother, his father and his coaches at TCU, all of whom reminded him that injuries are part of the game and not to get too down on himself. Within his own position group, Kiser offered support. Howard also counted on offensive lineman Rob Havenstein, who had a locker next to him last year and has experience with the same knee injury.
"(Havenstein was) just telling me how the surgery went, how the recovery process went and how the rehab process went," Howard said. "He told me it'll be up and downs in the rehab process, and just stay in it. Don't get too down on myself and just stay positive."
Though Howard felt like he missed out on a lot, he has the benefit of returning to the same defensive system, with the Rams aiming to retain last year's scheme while defensive coordinator Raheem Morris adds his own wrinkles.
Whether it's a product of that familiarity or just being back at full strength, Howard has had a good training camp so far in the eyes of McVay.
"It's big time (having Howard back)," McVay said after Thursday's practice. "I've been really pleased with him. You felt so bad for him last year because he was doing so many good things. Really liked the look in his eye. He's out here, he's got a good bounce in his step. I think he's really done a nice job of continuing to progress."