It has been a tough three months for Robert Woods.
In November, the veteran Rams wide receiver suffered a season-ending knee injury during a noncontact drill in practice, preventing him from being part of the team’s run to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
A few weeks ago, his father, Robert II, died unexpectedly.
But Woods, 29, said Tuesday that he is remaining positive and enjoying the Rams’ success.
“There’s so much to embrace and so much joy when you really think about it,” Woods said during a videoconference with reporters. “Obviously, there is sad times losing my father, but, like, this is what my dad wanted. He would love for us to win a championship, win a Super Bowl here. … I feel like it’s an emotion of ups and downs, but when you really look at the joy and the accomplishments that I accomplished, my teammates have accomplished, there so much joy it overshadows the pain.”
Woods, who grew up in Carson, played at Gardena Serra High and was an All-American at USC. He played four seasons with the Buffalo Bills before signing with the Rams in 2017. He played key roles in the Rams’ drive to the playoffs that first season under coach Sean McVay and to Super Bowl LIII in the 2018 season, the first of two straight years he had over 1,000 yards receiving.
One game into the 2020 season, Woods signed a four-year extension that included $32million in guarantees, according to spotrac.com.
In nine games this season, he had 45 catches, four for touchdowns. But a day after the arrival of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was signed to augment the receiving corps, Woods suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Beckham has become a key contributor for an offense that also features quarterback Matthew Stafford and receivers Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. But coaches and teammates said Woods filled many intangible roles beyond pass catcher, blocker, captain and team leader.
“You don’t ever replace a player like Robert,” McVay said.
Making up for what Woods provided has been “an ongoing process all season long,” offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said.
“Just because of the sheer multiple jobs that he did on a snap-to-snap basis,” O’Connell said. “Not only just catching the football, but his impact in the run game, the screen game, his ability after the catch to generate explosives.
“He’s such a unique, special player for us.”
Kupp achieved the so-called triple crown of receiving this season by leading the NFL in receptions, yards receiving and touchdown catches. Woods, he said, has helped him develop since 2017, when Woods was a newly signed free agent and Kupp a third-round draft pick.
Kupp said he had heard “horror stories” about what an NFL receivers meeting room could be like and how rookies were treated.
But Woods embraced him.
“From the beginning, he did nothing but enable me to be whatever I could possibly be,” Kupp said. “He gave me all the tools, never held anything back from me. Just took me under his wing, taught me, coached me, showed me day after day what the expectation was to play this position.
“He was my example from Day One. I owe a ton to Rob Woods and what he gave to me over the course of these last five years and continues to show me. … He’s going to be my brother for the rest of our lives.”
Woods watched the NFC championship game victory over the San Francisco 49ers from the stands. Afterward, he embraced Kupp and other teammates on the field.
“I was emotional for my pops and just said, ‘Congratulations guys,’” Woods said. “They said, ‘Come here, bro. We’re not worried about that.’
“That just meant so much, for teammates being there for me. There’s so much going on with football and the [NFC] championship and Super Bowl, but I felt like the team was still supportive and including me.”
In 2018, Kupp suffered a season-ending knee injury that prevented him from taking part in the Super Bowl run. Woods said Kupp has counseled him about the recovery process and dealing with not being able to play in the Super Bowl.
Woods said he expected to be ready to return by offseason minicamp but would rehabilitate at his own pace and not rush the process as he prepares for the 2022 season.
When not rehabilitating, he has sat in on meetings and provided feedback on games.
“I could sit here and mope about it and say: ‘I wish I was out there. The team is winning the Super Bowl ring without me,’” he said. “But I’m a part of this, man.”
Woods said he wants the Rams to add to “the L.A. legacy” by joining the Lakers, Dodgers and Kings as teams that won championships. On Sunday, he will be on the sideline for the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’m excited for the guys,” he said. “We just got to win it. One more.”