Rams' Brandin Cooks ruled out vs. Steelers; Clay Matthews on track to return

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks remains in concussion protocol and has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rams coach Sean McVay said Wednesday.

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been sidelined since breaking his jaw in Week 5, is on track to return.

"I anticipate myself being out there," Matthews said. "Feeling good, feeling confident and hopefully no setbacks."

The Rams are 5-3 and in third place in the NFC West as they prepare for the 4-4 Steelers.

Backup receiver Josh Reynolds, who started eight games last season, is expected to replace Cooks, who suffered two concussions last month and appears to be in no rush to return to football.

Cooks sought the opinion of a specialist in Pittsburgh last week, and McVay said Wednesday that Cooks was en route to Pittsburgh once again to meet with doctors.

"We're really just trying to continue to gather information," McVay said. "The first visit was very beneficial. We got a lot of good information that I think gives him a peace of mind, gives us a clear-cut idea of, 'OK, how do we want to continue to progress moving forward.'"

Cooks will not remain in Pittsburgh after visiting specialists despite the Rams playing Sunday at Heinz Field, McVay said, adding that there have been no setbacks in Cooks' recovery.

"You can't be smart enough with the human being, more than anything, in something like this," McVay said.

Cooks suffered his first concussion this season in a Week 5 Thursday night game against the Seattle Seahawks, but he cleared protocol to play in Week 6. He suffered a second concussion in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In both instances, McVay said, Cooks did not show symptoms a day after being placed in protocol. However, Cooks and the Rams chose to seek opinions from specialists because of the frequency of his concussions, followed by how quickly he appears to recover.

Cooks has had five known concussions since 2015, when he was placed into protocol as a member of the New Orleans Saints. He also suffered a concussion in Super Bowl LII with the New England Patriots and again last season in Week 5 with the Rams.

McVay said the idea of leaving football has not been broached with Cooks, who signed a five-year, $81 million extension, including $50.5 million in guarantees, before last season.

"That hasn't been something we've talked about," McVay said. "That comes from, 'How you feeling, Brandin? How does your family feel about these types of things?' Because with something like this, that's first and foremost with our consideration as we move forward. I know he feels good. I think he did feel a lot better having gone to the first visit to Pittsburgh to get some clarity on maybe why have some of these things occurred, what can we do from a preventative maintenance standpoint to just alleviate some of the risk of these occurring in the future and if this is something that's not going to inhibit his ability moving forward."

Matthews, who broke his jaw last month when Seahawks running back Chris Carson inadvertently kicked him in the face as he attempted a tackle, called his incident a "freak injury" and said he lost 4 to 5 pounds after having his jaw wired shut for about two weeks.

"It was pretty difficult -- I can't lie about that," Matthews said. "Just eating in general."

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Matthews was relegated to consuming calories through a straw and, along with protein shakes, mixed in some foods to create broths.

"Probably more psychologically it wore on me than physically," said Matthews, who signed a two-year, $9.3 million contract in the offseason.

Matthews was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, according to the Rams participation report, but he called it a "big step" to put his helmet on and expressed confidence that he would be ready to return Sunday.

"Anytime you come off an injury, that first game is kind of the biggest obstacle, the biggest hurdle," said Matthews, who has six sacks and two forced fumbles in five games. "It feels good just having my helmet on it, getting it jostled and everything ... I anticipate it to go well."