Los Angeles Rams honor first responders, victims of recent tragedies at MNF game

LOS ANGELES — More than 3,000 first responders and people affected by the recent tragedies in Southern California were guests of the Los Angeles Rams for their Monday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams’ training facility is located in Thousand Oaks, California, on the campus of Cal Lutheran, which is less than five miles from Borderline Bar and Grill, where 12 people were killed in a mass shooting on Nov. 7. The next day, the Woolsey Fire began and devastated a region that didn’t even have time to grieve. The fire burned 96,949 acres, killed three people, destroyed 1,452 structures and forced thousands to evacuate their homes in Ventura County and Los Angeles County.

When the Rams’ game on Monday was moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from Mexico City due to the poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca, the Rams provided thousands of complimentary tickets to first responders as well as those impacted by the recent tragedies. The Rams said they worked through fire and law enforcement agencies and local organizations to ensure tickets got into the right hands.

“The Los Angeles Rams practice right there at Cal Lutheran University,” Ventura County Fire Department Captain Stan Ziegler said. “Many of our fire department members sneak over there and look over the fence and watch our home team practice. It’s exciting for us to be able to come here. It’s great to make that connection with our hometown team. You would not believe what it means to us.

“Many of our firefighters have been on the road for two weeks. They haven’t seen their families. They haven’t been able to go home. Just to be able to come to the Coliseum and relax and be amongst their brothers and sisters who are firefighters who have been in the battle with them and get a chance to relax and watch a football game and eat a hot dog is just a fantastic boost for our morale.”

The Rams, however, did more than give tickets to the game to first responders and victims.

Karen and Jordan Helus, wife and son of Ventura County Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus, who was killed in the Borderline shooting, lit the Coliseum Torch prior to kickoff and were joined by Paige Vuksic, Jordan’s girlfriend, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Ventura County Assistant Sheriff Chris Dunn and Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Kevin Donoghue. A memorial banner with the names of the 12 Borderline shooting victims was positioned in the Peristyle end of the Coliseum.

“It was a devastating night, but when Ron went in there and gave his life, no one else died,” Thousand Oaks police Sgt. Jason Robarts said. “He paid the ultimate price, and it’s great that the Rams are honoring him and his family. The Rams are part of the community in Thousand Oaks, and these past few days have been the toughest physically and emotionally of my career.

“The next day after the shooting, we’re putting on another hat and putting our emotions aside and helping residents evacuate and putting out fires until the department got there. After that was done, it was funeral services, so it’s been a seven-day stretch I’ve never experienced before in my life.”

Dylan and Derek Adler, the sons of Sean Adler, who lost his life in the shooting at Borderline, served as the Rams’ honorary water boys for the game. Sean Adler was a wrestling coach at Royal High School in Simi Valley and a member of the security team at Borderline.

“I didn’t really expect anything,” said Dylan, who is 17 years old and a wide receiver on the Simi Valley High School varsity football team. “I was hoping to get through the memorial and go on with life as best as I can, and for them to contact us and for me to be on the sideline now is amazing. It makes me feel good that other people are looking out for me, and I didn’t expect any of that.”

“This is amazing … once in a lifetime experience,” added Derek, who is 12 years old. “My heart’s beating so fast, I’m so happy.”

Players and coaches from both the Rams and Chiefs wore hats honoring a variety of Los Angeles area fire and law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, LAFD, LAPD, LA County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and Ventura County Sheriff. The agency’s logo was on the front of the cap, and the team’s logo was on the side. The game-worn hats will be auctioned off after the game, with the proceeds going to the Conejo Valley Victims Fund and American Red Cross Southern California Wildfire Relief. Game-worn jerseys also will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the relief efforts.

“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ziegler, whose son, Jacob, knew two of the victims of the Borderline shooting. “We can see that when our percentages of containment start going up day after day. We know we’re getting a handle on this fire, and it’s just a matter of days. I believe the expected day of full containment is Nov. 22.”

Members of the Cal Lutheran Choir sang the national anthem while first responders and members of the greater L.A. community held a field-size American flag. Cal Lutheran alumnus and former choir member Justin Meek was one of the 12 victims of the Borderline shooting. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard presented the colors during the national anthem.

The Rams also recognized firefighters during the game, and proceeds from the in-game 50/50 Raffle will benefit the Conejo Valley Victims Fund, American Red Cross Southern California Wildfire Relief and United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Before the game, Rams Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson was on the field talking to several first responders and those affected by the fire. Dickerson, who lives in Calabasas, was evacuated from his home last week and hasn’t gone home yet due to the air quality.

“I’m still out of my house,” Dickerson said. “My neighbor’s house burned down. Thank God I still have a home, but it was close, but I’m not going to go back for a while. My son has asthma, and it’s really bad near my house, but I had to come tonight. I think it’s great that this game is in Los Angeles. We had the shooting and the fires the day after, and this city has been through so much. It’s great to take a break for a minute, catch your breath, and look around and appreciate what you have.”

Source link


Los Angeles Rams activate Pro Bowl KR Pharoh Cooper from IR

The Los Angeles Rams activated kick returner Pharoh Cooper from injured reserve on Monday and placed wide receiver Cooper Kupp on IR in a corresponding move.

Cooper, who was selected to the Pro Bowl last season after averaging a league-best 27.4 yards on kick returns, suffered an ankle injury in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders.

Cooper underwent surgery for his injury and was placed on IR. He handled both kickoff and punt returns for the Rams but Los Angeles has split his duties in his absence with Blake Countess handling the majority of kickoff returns and JoJo Natson handling the majority of punt returns.

Kupp tore his ACL in the Rams’ Week 10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Source link


Aaron Donald of Los Angeles Rams fined over Justin Britt confrontation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said he hoped he would not be fined after a series of altercations in the Rams’ game against the Seattle Seahawks.

No such luck, as Donald was fined more than $23,000 for his actions in Sunday’s game.

The NFL fined Donald $10,026 for his retaliatory hit on Justin Britt after the center delivered a late shove to Donald out of bounds. Both players were penalized for unnecessary roughness.

What Donald did after the game drew the most concern. He shed his shoulder pads on the sideline, put his helmet back on and buckled the chinstrap as he ran onto the field to confront Britt. That drew a $13,369 fine.

Donald would not expand this week on what took place throughout the game and afterward, but he said the Seahawks “did a lot of things” that he hoped would be seen by the NFL.

“I just got to control my temper,” he said. “I just got to be better.”

Players from both teams were chippy throughout the game, but Donald had had enough after he scooped what he thought to be a fumble by Russell Wilson (it was an incomplete pass) and took off down the sideline. He was forced out of bounds before Britt shoved him to the ground, and a scuffle broke out.

Sean McVay sprinted down the sideline to separate players. A microphone worn by McVay revealed that the Rams coach implored Donald to calm down and return for the next play.

McVay said this week that he addressed the situation and did not expect such behavior from any of his players going forward.

“We love Aaron. I love Aaron,” McVay said. “And the best part about Aaron is — like all of our players this year when you’ve had some situations that come up — they’re able to take the ownership, the accountability and know what they can do if something like this comes up in the future about how we want to try to handle it.”

The source said Britt was fined $20,054 for hitting Donald late.

Donald wasn’t the only Rams player with an after-the-whistle penalty.

Outside linebacker Dante Fowler, whom the Rams traded for before the deadline last month, picked up a costly foul when he mouthed off to an official. The Rams’ defense was leaving the field after a stop on third down, only to return due to Fowler’s lapse in judgment. The Seahawks scored a touchdown on the series.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips expressed displeasure with the penalties.

“After-the-play penalties, we really don’t accept them,” Phillips said. “They can’t happen. Sometimes you hit a guy close out of bounds, that kind of thing, but any post-play penalties, you’ve got to think about your team and what it costs if those things happen.”

As the Rams (9-1) prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) on Monday Night Football at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Donald said he is not concerned about picking up any such fouls in the future.

“Everybody learned,” Donald said. “We all seen it, we all was involved with it, so we understand what was going on and what we need to do to be better.”

Donald was fined $20,054 after a Week 1 victory over the Oakland Raiders for a low hit on quarterback Derek Carr. In 2016, Donald was fined six times.

Source link


Sean McVay says Los Angeles Rams could use some plays ‘stolen’ from Kansas City Chiefs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Sean McVay is always looking for a new wrinkle to add to the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense.

This season, the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) have provided plenty of content. So much, in fact, that the Chiefs might recognize a few plays Monday night when they play the Rams (9-1).

“I’d be lying if I said we have haven’t stolen some of their stuff this year,” McVay said Thursday. “They do a great job.”

Asked whether he planned to use any of the Chiefs’ plays against them, McVay said: “You’ll have to wait and see.”

McVay and his coaching staff regularly review film from across the league, but the Chiefs, who average 35.3 points per game, are a must-watch team.

“There’s so much tape and with the ability to easily access it week in and week out, it would be silly for us not to be able to look and see what the heck they’re doing,” McVay said. “Every single week they do something and you say, ‘That’s pretty good.'”

Patrick Mahomes has passed for a league-high 31 touchdowns, with 7 interceptions, as Kareem Hunt ranks third in the league with 13 touchdowns and Tyreek Hill is averaging 89 receiving yards per game. The Chiefs average 423 yards per game.

But keep in mind, the Rams’ offense is pretty good, too.

They’re averaging 448 yards per game — second in the NFL behind Tampa Bay — and Jared Goff has passed for 22 touchdowns with 6 interceptions.

Todd Gurley is at the forefront of the MVP conversation and leads the league in rushing yards, averaging 98.8 per game, and touchdowns, with 17.

The Rams average 33.5 points per game.

Source link


Marcus Peters still believes in Marcus Peters. Do the Rams? – Los Angeles Rams Blog

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — At least this time it wasn’t the official’s flag, like the one he threw last season, that he chucked into the stands at MetLife Stadium.

Marcus Peters was looking to break out of a slump. Nine weeks had passed since the Los Angeles Rams cornerback intercepted a pass.

And Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, Peters saw a chance to make it happen. Or so he thought.

Peters pressured Doug Baldwin as the Seahawks receiver burst off the line, but he held onto Baldwin just a little too long, before he turned and picked off a haphazard pass from Russell Wilson. An official threw a flag, and Peters appeared bewildered that he’d drawn a penalty.

Before the referee announced the ruling, Peters threw the football into the stands at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, then turned to the field and readied himself for the next play.

This season, Peters hasn’t been under any false impressions. The fourth-year pro knows he’s been getting beaten too much, and he’ll be the first to tell you. But Peters, who has a league-high 20 interceptions since 2015, said he’s still “a top f—ing corner in the league.”

The question is, as the Rams (9-1) prepare for a Monday night showdown (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) against Peters’ former team — the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) — what has to happen for the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback to play like it?

The Rams caught the attention of the NFL in the offseason when they traded for Peters, giving a fourth-round pick this year and a second-round pick in 2019 to the Chiefs. They were serious about upgrading their defense, and intent on making a Super Bowl run.

The Chiefs, perhaps, had a message of their own: Peters, for all his talent and playmaking ability, wasn’t worth the headache before and after the whistle.

In Kansas City, chairman Clark Hunt was upset about Peters’ protests during the national anthem. The two eventually compromised around midseason, and from that point Peters stayed in the locker room until the anthem was finished.

More publicly, a camera caught Peters directing an expletive at a fan behind the Chiefs’ bench. And later in the season, things got downright bizarre. In a game against the New York Jets, Peters was penalized after throwing an official’s flag into the stands. Peters then retreated to the locker room even though he had not been ejected from the game, and later returned, not wearing his game socks.

When Peters arrived in L.A., he addressed a reputation that preceded him, and has not looked back.

Coaches and teammates have welcomed Peters for who he is, brutal honesty and all, no matter the time or setting. And unlike in Kansas City, Peters has kept the scenes to a minimum.

There was the ode to Marshawn Lynch in Oakland — when Peters leaped backward and grabbed his crotch as he returned an interception for a touchdown. The gesture earned him a $13,000 fine.

And, from his “s—, pay the man” analysis of Aaron Donald‘s contract dispute to the in-depth description of his “f— it syndrome,” there has been the occasional curse-laden, viral-sensation media sessions.

Most recently, Peters was asked about Sean Payton’s comments that the New Orleans Saints coach got the matchup he wanted on a 72-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas, on which Peters was the defender.

“Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that s—. We going to see him soon, you feel me?” Peters said. “Because I like what he was saying on the sidelines, too. So tell him to keep talking that s—. I hope he see me soon, you feel me? Then we going to have a good lil, nice lil bowl of gumbo together.”

While the Chiefs had their fill of Peters, the Rams have not wavered publicly in their support.

Peters, to his credit, has boldly accepted one of head coach Sean McVay’s biggest tenets: accountability. And his “get beat, move on” message has resounded through the organization, even if Peters’ delivery and personality haven’t always jibed with the Rams’ buttoned-up, football-first public persona.

“He isn’t in the business of fluff,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said.

Peters, 25, made his name with the Chiefs playing mostly off-man coverage in a scheme that allowed the 6-foot, 195-pound corner to rely on his instincts, ability to diagnose the quarterback and ball skills. In a word: freelancing. In three seasons, Peters was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, earned first-team All-Pro honors and forced 24 turnovers, including a league-high 19 interceptions and five forced fumbles.

With the Rams, he has struggled to adjust to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme designed for the corners to often play press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Peters’ eyes too often have fixated on the quarterback, and too often his receiver has taken advantage. It also hasn’t helped that veteran Aqib Talib, who starred in Phillips’ scheme when the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, has been on injured reserve since Week 4.

But Phillips said the Saints breakdown was his fault. There was Peters standing across from Thomas — who was on pace for a record day — as free safety Lamarcus Joyner crept closer to the box. Peters looked to his left, hollered at teammates and waved his arm. Before he knew it, Thomas sprinted past him.

Peters — about four yards off Thomas — jumped in a desperate attempt to break up the play, but with no safety help deep, Thomas took it in for a touchdown, busted out a cell phone and delivered a final dagger in the Rams’ first loss of the season.

“I’m putting that on me,” Phillips said. “Any time that it’s third-and-7, it’s the end of the game and you’ve got one-on-one with no help with their best player, then that’s on the coaches.”

It also proved to be a career day for Thomas, who caught 12 passes for a franchise-record 211 receiving yards. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Peters was the nearest defender on eight of Thomas’ targets; he caught six of them for 127 yards and a touchdown.

“Regardless of what Coach called, we’ve got to go out there and make plays,” Peters said. “And we just didn’t — I didn’t execute.”

Peters was also beaten deep for scores in games against the Chargers, Vikings, Packers and in the first meeting with the Seahawks.

Peters has been the nearest defender on seven touchdown passes, the most given up by a cornerback this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. His lone interception came in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio sits at 7-1 this season, compared with 4-3 in 2017. And targeted receivers are averaging 11.5 yards per target against him, the fifth-highest rate allowed by a cornerback with at least 25 such targets.

“In a lot of instances he’s isolated one-on-one with the other team’s best receiver and that’s come up throughout various times this season,” McVay said. “There’s going to be an element of, those great players will make some of their plays. I think the standards that Marcus has for himself, that we have for him, we expect him to play and make some of those plays.”

Despite a lack of results, Rams coaches have maintained their confidence in Peters’ ability to thrive in their system. Peters realizes he hasn’t lived up to the reputation he built with the Chiefs, and that his performance for the rest of the season will go a long way in determining his future.

“When you perform in this league as much as I did, and you come in and you are one of these players who makes those plays, and used to making those plays, and those plays not coming, it kind of frustrates you,” Peters said. “But when you’ve got an offense and defense as talented as this is, it’s just all about finding your groove and finding where you fit in through everything.”

This offseason, a decision likely will need to be made about Peters’ future. He is in the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal, and is scheduled to make $1.74 million this season and $9.06 million next.

But beyond 2019? The Rams don’t have a recent history of giving long-term deals to defensive backs. Janoris Jenkins departed in free agency to sign with the New York Giants, and Trumaine Johnson signed with the Jets.

Peters doesn’t want to leave L.A. He’s happy with the coaching staff, the culture and environment with his teammates. But the question remains: Can he produce enough over the final six games and playoffs to keep the Rams happy and prove he’s worth a long-term extension?

Peters hasn’t addressed any contract talk, choosing to focus on the immediate future and playing to his standard.

After Sunday’s victory, Peters posted a photo of himself on Twitter, clad in the Rams’ yellow-and-blue throwback jersey, a smile plastered across his face.

“Back on track,” Peters wrote.

For Peters, Monday night is another opportunity to show the Chiefs what they gave away, and a stage to prove to the Rams that they made the right decision.

“With me, I’m going to continue to fight,” Peters said. “That’s the type of player I am. Who gives a s—, you’re going to get beat in football. But you go out there, you compete to the highest of your ability, and s— happens.”

ESPN’s Adam Teicher contributed to this report.

Source link


Mexico move leaves hurt feelings for Chiefs and Rams fans – Los Angeles Rams Blog

LOS ANGELES — Angel Fabela learned Spanish as a teenager so that she could communicate with her grandfather and has spent most of her adult life trying to connect with her Mexican heritage. This wasn’t just a football game. This wasn’t just her Los Angeles Rams playing in a potential Super Bowl preview against the Kansas City Chiefs on a national stage.

For Fabela, and so many of the Mexican-Americans spread throughout Southern California, this was a pilgrimage. She bought six tickets, three of them for friends traveling all the way from Illinois. She was going to pull her 14-year-old son out of school, visit the Pyramid of the Sun, meet up with other fans who made the journey and bask in the unique pairing of her favorite team in her home country.

On Thursday, she was elated.

By Tuesday, her spirit was broken.

“I’m just bummed right now,” Fabela, 48, said. “I’m really pissed.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, the NFL announced that its anticipated Monday Night Football game (8 p.m. ET on ESPN) would be moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles because of substandard playing conditions at Estadio Azteca.

Rams players, stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in order to acclimate to the high altitudes of Mexico City, expressed joy and relief on Twitter. Thousands of L.A.-based Rams fans who couldn’t make the 1,800-mile trek south did the same, elated by the reality of the first Monday Night Football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1985.

But there were several others, like Fabela, who spent months excited about the prospect of such a fun game in such a special place and suddenly felt empty.

Like Henry Yep, a longtime Rams photographer who lost his mom at a young age and was getting his first chance to visit the city where she grew up. Or Mario Aguilar, a corrections officer who works in San Diego, lives just south of the border and purchased 10 tickets for family and friends. Or Roman Torres, who was looking forward to enjoying Mexico with his uncle, the man who helped him fall in love with the Rams.

“I think ‘bittersweet’ is a great word,” Rams COO Kevin Demoff said of the stunning turn of events.

Demoff had just visited Estadio Azteca a couple of weeks earlier and didn’t think the game could be in jeopardy. League officials had expressed concern about it in October, in the wake of a Shakira concert and a handful of soccer games. But, as Demoff said, “they had a plan.” He stopped by with the Rams’ groundskeepers while taking part in events throughout the city and found the field to be “very safe,” even if unattractive.

But that was followed by heavy rainfall, and more events, and by Monday, after field testers from all parties took one final look, the thought of moving the game back to L.A. became a very real possibility.

Suddenly, a Rams team still reeling from a mass shooting that occurred 10 minutes away from their facility and vast, growing wildfires that had displaced upwards of 100 members of the organization scrambled to host one of the season’s biggest games in six days. Their Agoura Hills, California, ticket office remained in an evacuation zone, so employees were scattered through four different locations trying to make it all work.

In the words of one team official: “It’s f—ing nuts.”

The Rams are doing their best to satisfy all parties. For first responders and others affected by the recent tragedies, they’re offering “thousands of complimentary tickets.” For season-ticket members, they provided an exclusive purchasing window with tickets that are significantly cheaper than the going rate for Mexico City. For those who were planning to make the trip, they will try to arrange special access opportunities.

But the Rams can only do so much.

It’ll be up to the NFL to decide whether fans will be refunded their tickets for Estadio Azteca. Some hotel reservations won’t be; neither will most airfare. And the excitement of a life-changing trip can’t be replaced.

“I’m bummed out,” said Yep, a 57-year-old Upland, California, resident.

“It’s just a big bummer because we were looking forward to it,” said Torres, 35, who lives in Whittier, California. “We’ve been looking forward to it since we found out it was going to be in Mexico. This trip has been planned for six months.”

“Trust me, when I say that I am truly and sincerely happy that the players get to play on the safe field,” said Fabela, who made bejeweled Rams horns outfitted in the Mexican flag for the game. “I’m happy for the Rams fans in L.A. that weren’t getting to go to Mexico that they get the bonus game here in L.A. I really am. I’m just pissed because it shouldn’t have to come to this.”

Ulises Harada is a founder and podcast host for “Primero y Diez” (“First and 10”), which has become one of the most popular NFL sites in Mexico. Harada doesn’t blame the Rams, the Chiefs or the NFL for moving the game. He blames officials in charge of Estadio Azteca, where the turf, in Harada’s words, is consistently “terrible.” He can’t fathom how this snuck up on them.

“People here are very angry and very disappointed,” Harada said. “That’s the truth. It’s frustrating.”

But Harada felt the excitement for this game paled in comparison to the Monday Night Football contests that Mexico City hosted the past two years, even though both teams are 9-1. There simply aren’t enough Chiefs and Rams fans in his country.

Harada identifies four tiers of NFL fandom in Mexico City, which is as passionate about American football as any city in the world.

The first tier is made up of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, who were broadcast in Mexico during the 1970s. The second tier is the San Francisco 49ers (they love Joe Montana) and the New England Patriots (that Tom Brady guy isn’t so bad either). The third tier is composed of other teams with successful histories, like the Oakland Raiders, the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos.

“After those teams,” Harada said, “all the fan bases are really small.”

The Rams and Chiefs fall in that last tier, but they had a rare opportunity to change that, especially the Rams. Mexicans made up 35.8 percent of the Los Angeles County population in the 2010 Census (that’s 3,510,677 people). In Orange County (28.5 percent), San Bernardino County (41.7), Ventura County (35.6), Riverside County (39.5) and San Diego County (28.1) the figures were similarly striking.

The Rams’ recent success, infectious excitement and swelling popularity gave them a chance to gain some real traction in the second-largest city in the Western hemisphere.

With a thrilling win, they could have left Mexico City with a new market.

“This was a great opportunity to build that fan base,” said Demoff, whose team must play one more international game in 2019. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to go back next year and play there and get all the issues resolved.”

The Rams will still do all the community events they planned in Mexico, a slate that includes hospital visits, a charitable 10K and the construction of a playground. They have spent a lot of their time trying to connect with a local Hispanic fan base that spent two decades without its own NFL team.

Two years ago, the Rams partnered with Univision to broadcast Spanish-language preseason games (the Chiefs have done something similar, with a popular Spanish-language broadcast team for all games). Two weeks ago, they partnered with Nike to outfit the two programs involved in the “East L.A. Classic,” one of the biggest high-school rivalries in the country. Throughout, they freely utilized the #VamosRams hashtag on social media platforms.

“We’re just starting to scratch the surface of that relationship,” Demoff said. “Hopefully this isn’t a setback; more of just a delay.”

Source link


Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is enjoying the ride

The first time I saw Goff play quarterback, he was a sophomore in high school, so skinny he had to wave his arms to make a shadow. Even then, with his Marin Catholic jersey billowing around him, the ball left his hand and traveled audibly through the air, and those watching lifted their heads and tracked it in dumbstruck silence, none more helplessly than the thick-ankled defensive backs trying to track it down.

Through 39 wins over three varsity seasons, a silly percentage of his throws ended with the receiver jogging into the end zone and Goff jogging nonchalantly to the sideline in that same upright two-beat trot you see now, as if throwing 50-yard touchdowns was just another way to spend an afternoon. He always gave the impression he was waiting around for something that — finally — might be worth celebrating.

“I’ve always said the same thing about Jared,” says his father, Jerry, a former big league catcher. “If you walk into a stadium in the fourth quarter and you had no idea what was going on, you wouldn’t know if he had thrown four touchdowns or four picks.”

Now the game is infinitely faster, the men playing it so big and strong they can be mistaken for machines moving across a screen. Goff has traveled the distance from skinny to thin — “I know how to fall” is how he explains his durability — as his game has embarked on a consistently upward trajectory. The Rams, 11-5 last season, were stung by the wild-card home playoff loss to the Falcons; after a revelatory second season — 3,804 yards and 28 TDs — Goff started slowly in his first playoff game and never got rolling. This year, after an 8-1 start, the memory of that loss had him eager to talk about the one or two games in which the Rams’ offense started slowly before starting to roll. He roams the sideline during the slow times repeating the same message: “It’ll pop.” In every game, even the Week 9 loss at New Orleans, he’s been correct.

There’s a common reason prescribed when young QBs start reading defenses and identifying coverages and throwing to the right receiver through the narrowest of slots. McVay says it first: “The game is slowing down for Jared.” It’s accepted wisdom, but in reality the only way for the game to seem slower to the quarterback is for the quarterback’s brain — through repetition and recognition — to accelerate.

“If I can look out over a defense and say, ‘That route’s not going to be there,’ then I don’t need to spend a lot of time on it,” Goff says. “It allows me to get through everything a little quicker.”

That works well with McVay, who coaches like he’s always trying to beat the yellow. He plays defensive back against his receivers at practice and talks so fast that punctuation never has a chance. He exists in the realm of lines and angles, the world an equation that must be solved before time runs out.

“He does something every day to amaze me,” offensive tackle Rob Havenstein says. “The details he picks up are incredible. He’ll pop into our meetings and tell us why we’re doing this or how we’re changing this. He’ll leave, and we’ll sit there and look at each other for a minute, shaking our heads, and then someone will say, ‘Yeah, that’ll work.'”

The NFL has become a cult of coaches and quarterbacks. You can’t win without a guy who can play the position and a guy who can teach it. One has to be able to command a room, the other a huddle. The Rams are unique; Goff and McVay’s combined age (56) is 10 years less than Bill Belichick’s, and McVay, at 32, is younger than two of his starting offensive linemen.

“I don’t think you can put an age to what his brain does,” says center John Sullivan, who is five months older than McVay. “His brain is just his brain. It could be 10 or 110 — doesn’t matter. Not everything around here fits with tradition when it comes to age.”

I ask McVay if he can cite specific throws Goff has made this season that show his growth. It feels a little cheap, like a dad asking his kid to recite baseball stats at a holiday party, but let’s face it: The temptation is too great. McVay, famously, is someone who can be asked about random plays and recount the details like they’re the names of his siblings, so asking him to provide some concrete examples of his quarterback’s improvement seems like an ethical imperative.

He doesn’t have to think. The throw is right there, playing on a screen in his mind:

“I look at the timing and rhythm with which he threw Josh Reynolds his second touchdown against the Packers,” he begins, setting the scene from the Rams’ Week 8 win. “You want to be able to throw that three-stage footwork — he tempos his drop on a three-step-from-the-gun footwork and lets it go when his back foot hits, recognizing the coverage concept. The difference between taking that and taking a hitch is a catch-tackle, or maybe a catch-incompletion, and a touchdown with a catch-transition.”

Animation courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats

I should probably tell McVay he’s giving me too much credit with this explanation, but interrupting him when he’s talking football seems like an unforgivable transgression. The way it looked to the untrained eye, though, tight end Tyler Higbee ran a short sit-down route to Goff’s right, and Reynolds ran a deep slant in the seam behind Higbee. Just as a linebacker drifted toward Higbee, Reynolds split the two deep safeties and turned to find the ball arriving in his hands. Reynolds’ explanation is less technical than McVay’s, but it requires its own level of translation. “Once I saw the dime linebacker sit on the cheese [Higbee; think mousetrap], I knew the ball was coming before I laid eyes on Jared,” Reynolds says. “As soon as I turned, the ball was on me.” McVay was suggesting that last season Goff might have settled for the first open man — Higbee — for a modest gain, rather than waiting that extra second — with the rush coming — to see the play through to its greatest glory.

“In play-action, we run a lot of what we call three-level throws,” Goff says. “Usually, it’s something vertical, something intermediate and then something like a checkdown to a running back or a tight end. When I was just starting to understand things last year, it might have been” — here he nods his head three times while moving his eyes higher each time — “one-two-three. Mechanical. Now I can see before the snap: OK, that deep ball is probably not going to be open, so this throw is probably going to the intermediate guy. You start to play the percentages, see what’s most likely going to take place.”

The Rams won their first eight games for the first time since 1969 because the roster is loaded with great players: Todd Gurley is an MVP favorite (along with Mahomes), and Goff is in the conversation; Aaron Donald could repeat as defensive player of the year; Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are on track for 1,000-yard seasons, as was Cooper Kupp before a season-ending knee injury. Reynolds, who will move into Kupp’s role as Goff’s third receiver, cites a less obvious reason why the Rams have been able to keep defenses guessing. “We’re a really smart team,” he says. “Everybody in here is smart, and that makes a difference.”

The Rams’ extensive playbook grows as the season wears on. McVay is free to introduce concepts midseason and knows they’ll be understood. “Obviously, we’re expected to know the plays,” Havenstein says. “But they’ve been teaching us more about the why of it — why we block a certain defense a certain way, why a certain play will work when the defense gives us a certain look. When you understand something, it makes it easier to add new stuff.”

Each week, they’re being taken deeper and deeper into McVay’s brain, a hoarder’s garage of expansive concepts, granular diagrams and, not least of all, slogans — “We Not Me,” “You Know What You Know,” “The Standard Is the Standard.” Those words can seem meaningless from the outside — a mind-numbing expansion of the it is what it is culture — but within the team, they represent a shared language to wall off intruders. You know what you know is McVay’s way of saying, We know what nobody else does.

“I feel like I get a pretty good look inside his mind,” Sullivan says. “He’s a freak — in a good way. I’ve seen the videos of him reciting plays.”

Guard Rodger Saffold, at the next locker, interjects to tell Sullivan, “Just like you.”

“No, I’m not like that,” Sullivan says. “Not like that.”

“Don’t let him fool you,” Saffold says to me. “He remembers, yeah he does. ‘Hey, do you remember that play from 2009?’ That’s this guy right here.”

“Nah,” Sullivan says, embarrassed. “I can recall certain things. Probably not the way [McVay] can, though. I don’t think anybody can.”

“To play at the level he’s playing is really impressive,” says his coach, Sean McVay. “The level of throws, the understanding of what defenses are trying to present, the off-schedule plays he’s able to make in rhythm.” Ture Lillegraven for ESPN

The sibilant hiss of the word manages to compound the insult: System quarterback. Was it inevitable? Did McVay’s ascendance require that Goff become an extension of his coach and not the curator of his own talent? Before the Rams’ Week 7 game in Santa Clara, I listened to a 49ers radio analyst say that Goff couldn’t throw a spiral before McVay showed up. And two weeks later, before Goff had thrown a pass against the Saints, Fox’s Troy Aikman said, “When [Goff] signs his next contract, he should give Sean McVay 10 percent.”

The storyline began to develop a year ago, when the Great Helmet Communication Conspiracy opened a window for those who were seeking sorcery behind McVay’s methods. Goff was miked during a game, and McVay’s voice could be heard in the background as Goff stood at the line and surveyed the defense. “People misconstrued it,” McVay says. “They thought, ‘All right, they’re just getting to the line and telling him what to do.'” The communication between the coach and the quarterback cuts off when the play clock reaches 15 seconds, and McVay says, “Jared’s making all the calls. He has the mastery of the offense.”

System quarterback?

“To call him that is a discredit to all the good things he’s doing,” McVay says. “As coaches, you want to be able to put your players in a system that’s conducive to their success. But there are 32 guys in the world that are starting quarterbacks, and it’s a very, very elite group. And then to play at the level he’s playing is really impressive — the level of throws, the understanding of what defenses are trying to present, the off-schedule plays he’s able to make in rhythm. I think sometimes that is received as, ‘Well, a lot of guys can do what he’s doing,’ and I just don’t think that’s the case. I think he’s doing some special stuff, and I think as a result of him playing quarterback he makes it a good system.”

“He’s doing some special stuff, and I think as a result of him playing quarterback, he makes it a good system.”

– Sean McVay

The system runs on balance, in scheme and in personality. “I think sometimes I can get too excited,” McVay says, “and the consistency of Jared’s demeanor helps me keep it in perspective. I look at him during games, so composed and refreshingly secure in himself, and I have to remind myself: Hey, that’s what you want to be.”

And while he’s at it, McVay wants to know the system that could conjure what he saw in Minnesota, when Goff completed 26 of 33 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. It was one of just 49 perfect quarterback ratings (158.3) in the NFL since 1950. Only three of those were by quarterbacks with at least 30 passes thrown, and of all of them, Goff has the most yards and is tied for the most completions.

Statistically it could have been the best quarterback performance in history, and there was one throw in particular that nobody could believe. Late in the first half, with the Vikings leading by three and the Rams at the Vikings’ 19-yard line, Goff rolled far to his right and lofted a pass off one foot. “He’s throwing it away,” Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor thought to himself, adding now, “I was thinking about the next play.” Instead, Goff was throwing a geometrically perfect pass — the angle, velocity and location — that somehow scissored between two defenders and landed in the hands of Cooper Kupp in the back corner of the end zone.

Animation courtesy of NFL Next Gen Stats

In short, says Taylor: “It was one of the most remarkable passes I’ve ever seen.”

Less than 48 hours after the Rams have defeated the Packers on the last Sunday in October, Goff is being photographed as he walks around the team’s complex in Thousand Oaks. November is two days away, yet the temperature is in the high 80s, the Santa Ana winds crackling through the hills like radio static. Locals instinctively check the hillsides, expecting smoke.

The Rams are the last undefeated team in the NFL, a few days away from their first loss, and Goff’s most immediate concern is a stamp on the underside of his wrist from a Halloween party the night before that everybody keeps mistaking — annoyingly — for a tattoo. There’s also a wrap on his left ankle and yellowing bruises on his left biceps. When the photographer asks him to sit on a curb for a pensive shot, he starts to bend down and then stops. “Can’t do that,” he says, shaking his head. Asked why, he laughs and says, “It’s Tuesday.” It’s the only explanation needed. A few minutes later, he winces as he pulls on his jersey and pads. Task complete, he exhales the way you do when you finally catch your breath. “I’m only 24,” he says, “but it’s Week 9, without a bye.”

Last year was Goff’s rebuttal to being labeled a rookie bust, but this one feels like an arrival: on the short list for MVP, leading a team that expects to play through January. Hana Asano for ESPN

So much of the job is appearances. Quarterbacks like Matt Ryan stroll into a postgame news conference dressed like CEOs. Cam Newton does one thing, Aaron Rodgers another. Everyone has a brand, and Goff’s can be loosely described as informal star. “Cali cool,” Taylor calls it. When Goff first came into the league, he would arrive for a game, unbutton the first two buttons of his dress shirt, pull it over his head and bury it on the floor of his locker. So when he took to the podium after a game, he always looked a little like he was wearing … well, a shirt that had been buried at the bottom of a locker.

He’s more particular now — he uses hangers, and his mom helps him with his outfits for home games — but every once in a while, Jerry will dare to venture into the unknown.

“Jared, how about a suit this week?”

“Nah, Dad, I’m good.”

Just two years ago, Goff was called a bust, and worse. (“You know what you know” is how he describes that situation.) Last year was his quiet rebuttal, but this one feels like an arrival: second only to Mahomes in passing yards through nine games, on the short list for MVP, leading a team that expects to play through January. He has helped to change the paradigm; he is part of the revolution.

It can be hard to tell. Goff’s organic nonchalance transcends circumstance and outcome. Against the Saints, with just under 10 minutes left, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kupp to put the Rams a two-point conversion away from erasing a three-touchdown deficit. His reaction? The same as the one against Minnesota, and the same as the one throughout high school, which is to say almost no reaction at all. His dad says the most emotion he’s seen from his son came in Seattle, after a successful quarterback sneak on fourth down late in the game clinched the Rams’ fifth win. Havenstein, the offensive tackle, sits at his locker and mimics the most effusive Goff celebration with an almost apologetic fist pump and a strangled “Yuh!” It’s modesty, sure, but that’s only part of it. It’s how confidence looks when someone is still waiting for a moment he deems worthy of celebrating.

Tim KeownKeown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a columnist for

Source link


New sod being installed for Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams game in Mexico City

Grounds crews appeared to be laying new sod on the field at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday amid what sources describe as significant concerns about the poor playing surface for next week’s showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams in Mexico City.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday night that the league is “working closely” with stadium personnel “to ensure that we have an NFL-quality surface” for the game.

But sources told Schefter that significant discussions are underway about whether the game will be played in Mexico City, Los Angeles or postponed, and that a decision is expected this week.

One source still expects the game will be played in Mexico City, according to Schefter, but another source said he thinks moving the game to Los Angeles is still an option that will be decided this week.

The issue is that soccer games and concerts have left the field a mess. The teams are aware of the situation, and the NFLPA is concerned and has been monitoring it closely.

The Rams left for Colorado Springs on Monday to train at high altitude for a week before traveling to Mexico City, where the elevation is about 7,300 feet.

Source link


NFL still determined to play Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams game in Mexico City despite field concerns

The NFL is still determined to play next Monday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, league sources told ESPN, despite significant concerns about the poor playing surface.

“We are working closely with the field manager at Azteca Stadium and others to ensure that we have an NFL-quality surface for our game, and we are looking forward to kicking off in Mexico City on Monday night,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

One source said he still expects the game will be played there. But another source said he thought moving the game to Los Angeles still is an option that will be decided this week.

The issue is that soccer games and concerts have left the field a mess. The teams are aware of the situation, and the NFLPA is concerned and has been monitoring it closely.

NFL officials are expected to convene at the stadium Tuesday in a meeting that was previously scheduled to examine the playing surface and make a final decision about whether the game can and will be played there, sources said. If it is not, the game would be moved to Los Angeles.

The Rams left for Colorado Springs on Monday to train at altitude for a week before traveling to Mexico City.

Source link


Cooper Kupp of Los Angeles Rams suffers serious knee injury in win

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams are not optimistic about the prognosis of a knee injury suffered by receiver Cooper Kupp on Sunday in a 36-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

“I don’t think it’s good,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game. “We’ll get the MRI, but it doesn’t look good right now.”

Kupp suffered the injury in the fourth quarter, on a play away from the ball, when he was running a route, jostled a bit with the defender, then went to the ground and grabbed his knee. Kupp walked off the field with assistance from the training staff.

“He’s been a valuable piece of our team and a guy we’ll miss,” Jared Goff said.

Kupp has dealt with a series of injuries this season.

He was placed into concussion protocol during halftime of a Week 5 victory at Seattle, but was cleared to play the following week in Denver.

But in the first half against the Denver Broncos, Kupp was tackled by the horse collar and sprained his knee as he awkwardly went to the ground. He tried to play a series in the second half of that matchup, but was ultimately sidelined for two weeks.

A second-year pro, Kupp has played a pivotal part in the offense this season. He has caught 35 passes for 527 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Source link