The start to the regular season has arrived. The Rams held one last non-padded practice at Cal Lutheran on Friday morning before the team takes on the Colts in their season opener on Sunday. Head coach Sean McVay said the team finished a good week of preparation, but will have meetings and one final walk-thru on Saturday.
Sunday's contest will mark McVay's first official game as a head coach. Though he gained valuable experience throughout the preseason, McVay said he will "definitely have a different feeling of excitement" once the game kicks off on Sunday.
"You're getting right into your normal flow and hopefully that's how it feels," McVay said. "I'm very fortunate to be in this role and to have the opportunity to be a part of this team."
"But, I think just leading into it, like I've mentioned over and over, having good people around you, you feel confident. It's an exciting thing, it's not a nervous thing. It's confidence to watch our guys go compete, confident that hopefully our preparation will allow our coaches to make good decisions and put our players in good spots and confident that it's going to be a great opportunity to go compete against a great opponent."
On Sunday, the Rams will be up against a young Colts' secondary that will be without its No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis. Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur acknowledged that Week 1 has been "a little bit of a guessing game" for the Rams, in terms of game planning, recognizing the difficulty in planning for over 20 new players on the Colts roster.
"It's going to be a good test on Sunday. Indy presents a lot of challenges in terms of just, it's a man-matched defense that is pretty aggressive and they're pretty opportunistic," he said on Friday. "...But I think our guys are well prepared for whatever we're going to see."
Quarterback Jared Goff will have plenty of weapons in his arsenal on Sunday, including wide receiver Tavon Austin, who will see his first game action of the year after missing the preseason with a hamstring injury. Goff will also benefit from new receivers like Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. And while the receivers group was "a little bit of a question mark" coming into camp, LaFleur said the group has gotten much stronger throughout the preseason.
The offensive line was also a topic of discussion for LaFleur. After adding the veteran presence of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan in the offseason, he said the line as a whole has steadily improved.
"It'll be interesting to see them go for a full four quarters, but I think we're pretty confident in those guys," LaFleur said. "I think those guys have gelled well together and have gotten progressively better throughout all of the offseason program and in the preseason. I think they've done a nice job."
Though LaFleur will not be on field to take in the season opener, opting to remain in the press box, he still expressed confidence at going into his first regular season game as an offensive coordinator.
"Honestly, I think it's pretty similar to roles I've had in the past," he said. "Being a guy that has predominately spent most of his career in the press box, you're kind of the eyes for those guys on the field, if there's something that they're not seeing.
"So, it's going to be fun to watch our guys get out there and compete for a full four quarters," LaFleur continued. "But, we're optimistic."
McVAY: 'SAFE TO SAY' DONALD WON'T PLAY ON SUNDAY
Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has remained absent from practice as his representation and the Rams continue to negotiate a contract extension. And while McVay had not ruled Donald out of Sunday's season opener throughout the week, he had a different answer to the question on Friday.
"With him missing the week of preparation, we're still trying to find a way to come to a solution," McVay said, "but it's safe to say that he won't be a part of this game."
Even without Donald, the team will still have plenty of depth on the defensive line against the Colts including players like Tanzel Smart, Tyrunn Walker and Morgan Fox.
The Rams announced on Friday that they were injury free, releasing a clean report once again.
"I think the ultimate goal in mind was being able to have guys ready to go for September 10th, and that's where we're at right now," McVay said. "It's a credit to those guys in being able to implement a plan and then the players doing a good job following through with it."
Reporting no injuries heading into Week 1 is a rare feat for most NFL teams, but left guard Rodger Saffold said a clean report is what's to be expected from the team every week.
"I just think that it's a great job from our staff — our coaches, our trainers, our strength coach — I think that they all work really well collectively to make sure that we took care of the body," he said, "but still got great work in, while still being physical on the field, as well as taking care of the body off the field."
The Colts also released their injury report on Friday, ruling out cornerback Vontae Davis, center Ryan Kelly, quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver Chester Rogers, and guard Ian Silberman for Sunday's game.