THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Since March 18, many have been wondering what the Rams offense will look like with quarterback Matthew Staffordunder center.
Come Sunday night against the Chicago Bears at SoFi Stadium (5:20 p.m. pacific time, NBC), it will make its debut.
"I'm excited to just go play ball," Stafford said after Wednesday's practice. "I love doing this. A bunch of different changes for me this offseason too – (I) battled through a bunch of things, moved my family across the country. I want to go play some football and do it with a group of guys that I've, in a short period of time, grown to just absolutely love and respect. I mean, all these guys in this team are incredible – just the way they practice, the way they go about their business, coaches included – just excited to go out there with these guys as a team and see what we got."
For Stafford, the time between the trade and now has been both long and filled with a lot of work.
He's been busy collaborating with head coach Sean McVay on that vision for Los Angeles' offense while also building a rapport with his new teammates to ensure it is successfully executed. One way Stafford accomplished the former was with precise attention to detail – Robert Woods noted during the offseason program this spring how Stafford made sure his receivers were comfortable by listening and asking questions what they see in certain routes.
"I think he's grasping this offense really poised," Woods said.
As for the latter, McVay said the communication between the two has been "really good," and that their rapport has been strong from the start of their partnership.
"You guys know from being around him, he's really easy to get along with, but he's got really strong opinions," McVay told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "But it's never, if he does have a disagreement, it's never in a way that that makes you feel like, 'Alright, well, what the heck?' It's always in such a disarming, good way of not necessarily having to agree to everything, but let's be solution-oriented. And that's exactly what Matthew's like."
During the summer, training camp and joint scrimmages offered a small preview of what fans might see.
Much like Stafford's first 12 NFL seasons with the Lions, it wasn't uncommon to see a no-look pass from him in different spots on the field. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp pointed out how Stafford would use his eyes to manipulate the Rams' defense during competitive practices, such as holding a safety to fire a no-look pass to fellow receiver Robert Woods over the middle.
Stafford's arm strength – recall that his nine average intended air yards tied with the Browns' Baker Mayfield and the Texans' Deshaun Watson for the sixth-highest in the league in 2020 – was also on display, with deep completions to Kupp and fellow wide receivers Van Jefferson and DeSean Jackson popping up in highlights on social media.
"You're looking forward to it," McVay said. "And it's really just the start, which is the good thing. We're going to learn a lot. But it's one game. It's an important game, because it's the only game we played this week, but we're gonna make sure that we maximize our preparation this week, but very excited and really confident in what he can do. But we also know it's going to be a great challenge against a really tough Bears outfit."
"There's some many things," said Kupp, when asked after Thursday's practice what excites him most about the possibilities of a Rams offense operated by Stafford. "I'm really excited to get out there and be able to just let it fly on Sunday. Like I've touched on, I think just the way you can really get all five eligibles out into being an eligible receiver and being a part of the pass plays, because of what he's able to do in terms of his command of the pass game and protections and understanding all the different things he's seeing, being able to move people and, like I've said before, not-really-premiere plays become really big plays for us. He'll do a lot of stuff for us. I'm excited to see it all come alive."
Above all else, Sunday is an opportunity for Stafford to finally play some football with his new team.
"It definitely feels like it's time to go play football too, which is a lot of fun," Stafford said. "There's a game tomorrow night. I mean, this thing gets going. There were games this weekend that were fun to watch. So, it's football season again, and that's a lot of fun."
Los Angeles Rams players hit the practice field to prepare for their Sunday Night Football matchup against the Chicago Bears on September 12.