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Rams can’t stop talking about bringing back Odell Beckham Jr.

LOS ANGELES — Save for a couple of backpacks stored on the cushioned blue bench seat, the locker sits respectfully unused.

The nameplate below the space for a helmet: ODELL BECKHAM JR.

The Rams, in a bit of wishful thinking, have not reassigned the locker — not while Beckham, superstar receiver and current free agent, remains on the market while working his way back from knee surgery.

"It makes you smile every day you come in and see it," offensive lineman Rob Havenstein said of the locker directly across from his. "It makes me think of my guy. Miss him. Love him.

"Hope he's back."

Last November, a few days before they played the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on "Monday Night Football," the Rams signed Beckham to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.

Coach Sean McVay did not waste time incorporating the three-time Pro Bowl player into the offense: On the first play, quarterback Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Beckham.

The Rams lost that game, but Beckham went on to catch five touchdown passes in eight games. During the 23-20 Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, Beckham caught a touchdown pass and had a 35-yard reception before he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Rams (2-1) return to Levi's Stadium on Monday night to play the 49ers (1-2).

Beckham, who turns 30 in November, is not expected to be ready to play for any team until late October or November at the earliest. And the Rams almost certainly will be challenged for his services by other suitors, especially playoff contenders.

But Beckham never seems far from the Rams' thoughts.

Last week, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey became the latest to drop a not-so-subliminal hint.

In recounting the Rams' road victory over the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, Ramsey initially spoke about defensive lineman Aaron Donald's and former Rams edge rusher Von Miller's performances.

"Odell had a great game, right," Ramsey added.

Then he paused for a beat.

"Odell," he said, "come back."

Beckham responded on Twitter with emojis of faces with tears of joy. "Forever my brother!" Beckham wrote. "Tell 'em ion want much."

Ramsey's comments continued a series from Rams coaches and players that began during the offseason.

In March, general manager Les Snead said that the Rams "definitely" want Beckham back and were trying "to make him a Ram sooner than later." Coach Sean McVay said on podcasts and broadcasts that he wanted Beckham — who crashed McVay's June 4 wedding — to return.

During training camp, McVay told the NFL Network he was hopeful that the Rams would "get Odell back at some point."

"If you're out there Odell," McVay added. "I know you heard that."

Later, while assessing young receivers on the roster, McVay told reporters: "So we'll look at those guys and then we'll continue to see if we can figure out when Odell will come back at some point as well."

Stafford, when asked about Rams receivers, also chimed in.

"I'm not closing the book on Odell or anybody," he said.

At the Rams' season opener against the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium, Beckham was on the field to participate in a pregame ceremony with a youth football team.

However, he has not publicly revealed where he plans to land after he fully recovers from knee surgery.

The Rams, who have not performed consistently well on offense through three games, could use Beckham.

Van Jefferson, the Rams' most effective deep threat last season, has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery during training camp.

Cooper Kupp, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year, has 28 catches and has scored four touchdowns. New addition Allen Robinson has seven catches, one for a touchdown.

Second-year pro Ben Skowronek caught four passes for a team-best 66 yards against the Cardinals but has of late mainly played fullback. Brandon Powell has five receptions.

Second-year pro Tutu Atwell does not have a catch and has yet to develop into the threat McVay envisioned when the Rams used a 2021 second-round pick to select him.

Meantime, Beckham's locker serves as a daily reminder of what was and what might be again.

Offensive lineman Bobby Evans' locker flanks it to the left, cornerback Troy Hill's to the right. The players store their backpacks there for now.

"He's a good guy," Evans said of Beckham. "Just hilarious as a team guy. Obviously, he's got that extrovert personality."

Hill played six seasons for the Rams before signing with the Cleveland Browns — and becoming Beckham's teammate — before last season. He was traded back to the Rams during the NFL draft.

"It's just being hopeful," Hill said of Beckham's locker. "That's a good player — you'd love to have a player like that next to you."

Or anywhere in the locker room, safety Nick Scott said.

"We just keep it out of respect," Scott said of Beckham's space. "Hopefully, we get him back."

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 6:38 PM.

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