First, Robert Woods suffered a torn ACL — a fluky non-contact injury — during practice in November, ending his 2021 season.
Then the Los Angeles Rams wide receiver lost his father, Robert Woods II, who died unexpectedly at the age of 66.
Now Woods must watch his Rams teammates play in Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Adding a little extra sting, the Super Bowl is being played in his hometown of Los Angeles.
"Being an L.A. native, I wanted to play in the game," Woods told Yahoo Sports' Liz Loza. "But the team still accomplished the goal, and that's the main focus. We're trying to win a Super Bowl, and we're here."
Initially, Woods was rehabbing his injury, mostly staying away from the team. But after the death of his father, Woods sought succor from two important sources in his life: his real-world family and his football family.
Woods received countless messages from his teammates in the week following his father's death, he said, and knew how much their support meant to him. First he skipped rehab to spend time with his biological family. Then Woods surprised his teammates by showing up at the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"A lot of emotions," he said. "… That was my first time getting back with the team."
One of the most poignant scenes after the Rams' victory over the 49ers was the embrace fellow Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp shared with Woods. Cameras caught the emotional hug and the tender words they shared.
Kupp could relate to one part of Woods' emotional struggle. Three years ago, when the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII, Kupp was the one on the sideline for the game with a torn ACL, unable to take on the New England Patriots.
But Kupp hugged Woods after the NFC championship and let him know where his emotions were at following Woods' father's death. Robert Woods II spent two seasons in the NFL as a wide receiver himself and came close to playing in a Super Bowl before his Houston Oilers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1978 AFC championship game.
"I love you, family."
This moment between @CooperKupp and @RobertWoods is everything. 💙 @InsideTheNFLpic.twitter.com/CsSHFgZPip
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) January 31, 2022
Kupp knew how much his teammate was still hurting. Woods appreciated Kupp's love in that moment.
"Seeing Cooper, I am full of emotions," Woods said. "He's like, 'Come here, brother, we're not talking about football.'
"It's bigger than football, and you really realize you have teammates that care about you as a person. … When you care about the person, it really shows."
Robert Woods' rehab following ACL surgery going well
Woods said his rehabilitation has been "very good" so far and has been "going faster than I thought." It's likely he'll be cleared sometime next summer as the Rams start to embark on the 2022 season.
But Woods plans to be on hand for Sunday's game — and even has a personal goal in mind for it. He's ramped up his rehab to the point where he's started jogging this week.
"(Wednesday was) my first day jogging, getting back out there. (I'm) trying to see if I can jog out with the team on Sunday (during player introductions)," he said. "But it's going well, progressing just as planned."
Woods, who turns 30 in April, has said he hopes to return for either the May or June minicamp. He's due a $3.5 million roster bonus on March 20, at which time his $10 million base salary also would become guaranteed, likely securing his place on the Rams for next season.
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