Rams Get Fan Experience at SoFi, Embrace Super Bowl Expectations

Arrival of Matthew Stafford has L.A.'s Sean McVay in good mood

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Nearly a year after its opening, the Los Angeles Rams finally got to feel what it’s like on the field with more than a handful of fans in the stands at the team’s sparking new facility, SoFi Stadium.

For head coach Sean McVay, hearing the roar of fans exceeded expectations.

“You’re reminded of the energy and atmosphere that’s created by the fans,” said McVay, who was not enamored with artificial crowd noise piped into empty stadiums during COVID-19 last season. “To have 30,000, 35,000 or whatever it was out here today, I said to a handful of our players and coaches -- could you imagine how rocking this will be when we open up against the Bears on Sunday Night Football?

“That has me excited.”

However, that fan experience included players showing up an hour late for festivities due to traffic around the stadium for the first time, something they will have to prepare for this season with California opening up and stadiums expected to be at full capacity.

“It’s good to be back in person, but not good to have this damn traffic,” joked McVay.

After making the trade for Matthew Stafford earlier this year, McVay’s Rams have Super Bowl aspirations, with the hope of playing in this same building eight months from now in the final game of the season, hoisting the Lombardi trophy.

With Rams owner Stan Kroenke intently watching his team from the sidelines after pulling the trigger on blockbuster trade that sent Jared Goff and picks to the Detroit Lions for Stafford, McVay doesn’t shy away from those expectations.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke talks with GM Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay/USA Today

Rams owner Stan Kroenke talks with GM Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay/USA Today

“Every single team has the goal of trying to win a championship,” McVay said. “And anybody giving themselves a real chance to compete for it knows you earn it one day at a time. This job is about pressure, day in and day out.

“That’s what you want. If you start avoiding pressure or you don’t like it, this is not for you.”

Earlier before Thursday’s practice during a press conference to introduce Super Bowl charitable initiatives, McVay said he was feeling happy this offseason with Stafford in the fold.

“Everybody says you seem like you’re in a better mood this offseason, and I say ‘you’re damn right I am,” joked McVay.

However, after practice McVay wanted to clarify that his cheery attitude had nothing to do with Goff being in the Motor City.

“By no means is that a slight to anybody like Jared, who has done a phenomenal job the last four years,” McVay said. “I hated that I even have to address that. But I did think out of respect for him and all of the good things he’s done. I am in a good mood. But that doesn’t mean it’s because we’re working together, or because of Stafford exclusively.”

McVay said he liked the work his team got done this offseason. He’s looking foward going in vacation with his fiancé Veronika Khomyn, including stops in New York, Greece and Monaco.

The star of Thursday’s final day of minicamp was Stafford, who received loud cheers from fans when shown on the massive video board or when he completed passes on the field.

Stafford stayed around afterwards to sign autographs for fans that hung around.

“There’s a known confidence where when he walks into a room, you feel his presence,” McVay said about Stafford, when talking to fans before practice on Thursday. “But he’s got a great humility about himself that everybody loves being around him. He’s one of those guys this is a true ignitor, he makes everybody around him better.

“I feel like I’ve become a better coach in the few months that we’ve been able to spend together, and we’re looking forward to doing a lot of good things together.”