Vikings have familiar playbook, backfield role for Akers; still committed to Mattison

Updated Sep. 22, 2023 7:18 p.m. ET

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Much of the typical team-switching stress for an NFL player will be irrelevant this week for Cam Akers.

The fourth-year running back's arrival with the Minnesota Vikings after being traded by the Los Angeles Rams was about as seamless of a schematic transition as he could find. Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell was his offensive coordinator during his first two seasons with the Rams.

“A lot of the stuff carried over coming from L.A. I know 90% of the playbook coming in. Just getting to know the team, the coaches, the people — that’s probably the main learning curve for me right now," Akers said after practice on Friday. “The pieces here, they've got the coaches, they've got the people. So hopefully I can step right in and contribute and do my part. The situation was pretty much perfect.”

Getting a fresh start in a contract year once the season has already begun is an unusual scenario, but conflict between Akers and the Rams' coaching staff over the last two years precipitated the deal with Kyren Williams passing him on the depth chart during training camp.


“I think he fits right in with our team, our culture and hopefully we can build towards having him have an impact on our offense,” O’Connell said. “We want him to get acclimated in our version of our offense. There’s some things he’s getting up to speed on, but there is quite a bit of carryover for him as well.”

O'Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, who was the tight ends coach with the Rams, both had good reviews of their experience with Akers.

“I think they’ll tell you the same thing. Back from my rookie year, I had a great relationship with Wes and with K.O. Knowing those guys for so long at this point, I kind of know what they expect. And they know me,” Akers said. “That makes it a little easier when you’ve got a relationship.”

When the Vikings (0-2) host the other team from Los Angeles, the Chargers (0-2), Akers will be on the inactive list. With the Vikings last in the league in rushing with 69 net yards through two games, there will likely soon to be an opportunity for him.

But the trade, O'Connell said, was in no way an indictment on current starter Alexander Mattison, who took over the featured spot for the departed Dalvin Cook this year.

“I told Alex nothing changes for him. The feelings I’ve had about Alex and his role for us still all feel the same,” O'Connell said. “There’s 1,000 things we can all do better to improve our run game, but as far as Alex Mattison goes, he’s our lead back. We continue to want to try to build things around him.”

Akers could serve as a change-of-pace option with a higher ceiling for long gains. Mattison is powerful with a deft forward lean for extra yards but not viewed as much of an explosive threat.

“I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy for the opportunity," Akers said. "I’m happy to come in and contribute in whatever way I can for this team.”