THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey thought he was done playing DeAndre Hopkins twice a season when he got traded to the Los Angeles Rams.
But just like the blanket coverage the cornerback is used to dishing out, Ramsey just can’t seem to shake Hopkins.
“I follow him during the games, he followed me to the division, that’s what it seems like,” Ramsey said Friday.
Ramsey will renew his friendly rivalry with Hopkins when the Rams face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. It will be the eighth matchup between the two, but the first outside of the AFC South.
Ramsey spent four seasons with Jacksonville before he was dealt to the Rams (7-4) in October 2019. Hopkins got traded to the Cardinals (6-5) in March after seven seasons in Houston.
“We’ve had some good battles,” Ramsey said. “I’ve won some, he’s won some and, more importantly, the team I was on won some of those games. Unfortunately, we also lost some of those games, and that’s what matters at the end of the day is that team win.”
The Jaguars went 2-5 in those games, but Ramsey typically fared well in his individual assignment. He had 27 tackles, defended 12 passes, made one interception and recovered one fumble. Hopkins had three touchdown catches and topped 100 yards receiving just once when Ramsey was in Jacksonville’s secondary.
While the familiarity of division play can breed contempt, especially when the outspoken Ramsey is involved, his relationship off the field with Hopkins has been cordial.
“We cool, for sure,” Ramsey said. “But on Sunday we won’t be. On Sunday we gonna be competing. I’m gonna try to hold it down for my team and he gonna try to make big plays for their team. We got mutual respect because of that too. Because of the mindset. We can be cool outside of the field. Outside of the game we have a lot of respect for each other, but when it’s time to play, when it’s time to buckle our chinstraps and go make plays for our team, we both not gonna hold nothing back.”
Ramsey was limited in the Rams’ 23-20 loss to San Francisco last week because of a hip injury that flared up during warmups. He played 50 of 72 defensive snaps, but coach Sean McVay said Ramsey is back to full strength and should see his usual workload against the Cardinals.
That doesn’t mean Ramsey will be shadowing Hopkins on every play.
“You definitely don’t want to be so predictable that the only thing he’s doing is just traveling around with DeAndre all day,” McVay said. “Those two have tremendous respect for one another. They’re two of the best in the world at what they do.”
Hopkins showed that elite ability when he caught the “Hail Murray” to beat Buffalo in Week 10, but it was the lone bright spot in an otherwise lackluster November. Subtract that 43-yard touchdown catch, Hopkins’ other 19 receptions last month produced just 220 yards without scoring, which might explain why he didn’t have much to say about his reunion with Ramsey.
That left others to do the talking about the anticipated showdown in a crucial NFC West game.
“I definitely will have my popcorn out watching it from the sideline, for sure,” Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “It’s going to be another clash of the titans.”
NOTES: DT Sebastian Joseph-Day is questionable to play against the Cardinals because of a hip injury. Joseph-Day, who returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, leads the team with 25 tackles on run plays. … The Rams re-signed LB Jachai Polite to their practice squad after clearing waivers. Polite, a third-round pick of the New York Jets in 2019, has played in 11 games for Los Angeles this season.