Matthew Stafford will get to play in front of his home fans for the first time in nearly two years. But the new Los Angeles Rams quarterback won’t have to wait until the August preseason to experience the sights and sounds of SoFi Stadium.
The longtime Detroit Lion will throw the football with a limited number of Rams fans in the stands on Thursday evening.
Stafford and the Rams will host their first open practice at the crystalized $5.5 billion venue to close out June minicamp. Per the Orange County Register , 35,000 tickets were sold for the fan spectacle. The stadium won’t allow a sold out crowd and L.A. County Public Health placed a cap on the 35K mark due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But for the spectators who will sit inside the Inglewood indoor facility, they will get an early sample of watching Stafford in his new uniform and working with his new team.
Stafford told reporters that his first plan of action once his two feet step on the SoFi Stadium grass: Familiarize himself with what’s in front of his eyes regarding the stadium features.
“With the scoreboard going and all that, trying to find play clocks, all of that will definitely be part of what goes on for me tomorrow,” Stafford said in his Zoom video conference on June 8.
Stafford Still Learning the Offense, but Learning Quick
Here’s what isn’t new for Stafford: Adjusting to a new head coach. He’s played for four of them in Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, Matt Patricia and interim head coach for the remainder of the Lions’ 2020 season Darrell Bevell.
But what is new is diving into Rams head coach Sean McVay’s system, compartmentalizing everything from the motions to the verbiage of the plays.
“It’s a complex offense like all of them are,” Stafford said. “Just being able to kind of forget what I’ve learned in the past and move forward with the terminology and this new scheme. It’s always a challenge no matter with moving cities, states and teams and all that kind of stuff or moving coordinators within the same team. I’ve been through it before.”
Although, from the time Stafford became a Ram via trade in January 31, he said he’s gain a better understanding of how the offense is supposed to operate in the four months he’s been with his new team.
“I feel like my knowledge is a lot broader now than it was when we started, that’s for sure,” Stafford said. “I’ve been exposed from Sean and our offense and our defense as well. So it’s been a good learning experience for me.”
McVay noticed how quick his new quarterback has attacked his playbook. In a May 28 video conference, McVay told reporters he was pleased with Stafford’s approach to the Rams:
“I think we’re in the early phases of it. But certainly, the way he’s handled things up to this point, been very pleased. He’s a joy to be around every single day. The consistency that he comes in to work with is definitely something that he makes it really fun. And been pleased with what he’s done up to this point.”
Stafford Not Planning to Go Fast Right Now
Viewers of the public practice could be in for an offensive firework-less night. The Rams are likely to keep things simple until training camp in July rolls around. Stafford is additionally likely to take limited snaps in team drills by sharing quarterback duties.
Stafford is more concerned about the mental aspect of running the Rams offense efficiently, saying “It’s more ‘let’s get the protections adjusted, let’s get the runs going off in the right direction and get all the above next step going.’ That’s been the biggest thing and the communication.”
Stafford will eventually aim for new career moments, this time in SoFi and with the Rams. Thursday is his chance to give fans and his team a sample of what he’s learned and then move forward into the 2021 campaign.
“I know I have a big challenge in front of me, to make sure that I’m leading this team as best as I possibly can,” he said. “All they want from me is to play at a high level and do things the right way, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.”