Anderson took the long road to Super Bowl

C.J. Anderson of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Credit: Streeter Lecka

Credit: Streeter Lecka

C.J. Anderson of the Los Angeles Rams runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Rams running back C.J. Anderson took a circuitous path to what will be his third Super Bowl appearance.

He played in two Super Bowls for the Denver Broncos, and when Todd Gurley needs a break, the Rams will summon Anderson against New England in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After he was released by the Panthers and the Raiders this season, Anderson is the most unlikely Super Bowl participant.

“I just think that it’s how you handle situations at the end of the day,” Anderson said. “If you believe in something, believe in your talent and what you can do. I was released from three team, but it wasn’t because of talent. It wasn’t like the teams were saying you’re not good enough. It was just circumstances.”

Anderson, who was a free-agent comparable to Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, was released by Denver in April 2018, a month after free agency started. He rushed for 1,007 yards on 245 carries in his last season with the Broncos.

He signed a one-year contract with the Panthers, but was released after nine games. He signed with the Raiders on Dec. 5, but was released Dec. 11.


“I got released,” Anderson said. “They weren’t telling me nothing.”

So, Anderson was left to rationalize things.

“Common sense will tell you this, I got released from Denver because of cap space and a young running back in Devonta Booker who they drafted the year before,” Anderson said. “In Carolina, Christian McCaffery emerged. In Oakland, two (offensive) lineman got hurt and you’ve got to protect Derek Carr.”

After Gurley suffered a left knee injury, the Rams signed Anderson on Dec. 28.

Anderson has been stellar with the Rams. He rushed for 167, 132 and 123 yards in wins over Arizona, San Francisco and Dallas. He rushed for 44 yards on 16 carries against the Saints in the NFC Championship game.

Rams general manager Les Snead thought Anderson could help quickly, but didn’t envision the three 100-yard games.

“He ran the ball this year in Carolina pretty effectively,” Snead said. “You can turn on the tape of him next to Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl. Peyton has him by his side protecting him. … You’re hesitant to bring in a 27-year-old. … We are in the stretch run, and we were down to a rookie and a second-year player.”

Anderson was thankful for the another shot in the NFL.

“It wasn’t because of talent,” Anderson said about being released. “It wasn’t a talent issue, if that makes sense.”

Was it the playbook or the schemes?

“I would say I fit all of those schemes and systems well,” Anderson said. “ Obviously, I was with Denver for five seasons and had a successful early part of my career. ... You’re still in your prime at 27. I’m still having fun doing what I have to do.”

Anderson doesn’t feel like he’s having the last laugh as he prepares to face the Patriots. He faced Seattle and Carolina in his two previous Super Bowls.

“All three Super Bowl teams have been the same,” Anderson said. “The media is the same. The questions are the same. The difference is my story. How I got here and how I got released. It’s still fun.”

Anderson is carrying more of the rushing load, as Gurley has healed. The Rams insist that he’s not injured anymore after he had only five touches in the NFL title game.

The Rams plan to use both running backs against the Patriots.

“Me and Todd, we communicate well,” Anderson said. “We talk well.”

Anderson did most of his work inside against the Saints, while Gurley ran outside.

“He respects my game and I respect his,” Anderson said. “To have that from a superstar who’s done a lot in this league in a short period of time, I’m just doing my part.”

Anderson has been quick to share his Super Bowl experience with new teammates.

“You’re not as nervous,” Anderson said. “This is my eighth time playing the Patriots. I’m familiar with this team. I have a lot of history with New England.”

During Anderson’s transition period, he’s gained a little weight.

“I ran with power when I was 225,” Anderson said. “I’m 235 right now. I think I’m running the same way. I’m trying to pick up as many first downs as I possibly can.”

Anderson credits part of his success to the Rams’ stout offensive line.

“I just think the (offensive) line is playing really well,” Anderson said. “Me and Todd are just picking the right spots. I think our ability speaks for itself. Our vision and what we do after the initial contact or after we get to the second level. The receivers are doing a heck of a job. That’s what springs big runs in this league.”

Anderson has a hearty dose of respect for Gurley’s game.

“Speed and quickness, what he does with the football is special,” Anderson said. “We can try to keep you off balance because when I come into the game, it’s more smack you in the mouth. Get downhill, keep my pads down and try to find a way to pick up yards any way that I can.”

Gurley doesn’t mind sharing the rushing load.

“We are two running backs that run hard and go out there and try to make plays,” he said.