THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Sunday's game between the Rams and the Lions marks a reunion of current Rams with a pair of former ones when quarterback Jared Goff and defensive lineman Michael Brockers return as members of the Lions after both were traded to Detroit in separate deals in March.
Both players still have friendships and connections with their former Los Angeles teammates.
Goff helped orchestrate a Rams offense that ranked in the top 10 in the league in total yards in three of head coach Sean McVays' first four seasons (11th in the fourth season) and would be voted a team captain by his teammates three-straight seasons beginning with his third (2018-2020).
"We still stay in touch, same contact, we will be friends for life," said Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose cherished memories harken back to the time they spent together off-the-field. "You spend such an important time in your lives together, coming up in this offense, learning together. So that was a lot of fun, so much appreciation and respect for Jared, so I don't think that's gonna change."
Rams offensive lineman Rob Havenstein had one of the closest seat next to Goff's journey, having arrived a year before Goff as a 2015 second-round pick and played five seasons with him.
"It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of growing up through different things," Havenstein said. "Obviously we had a regime change and everything like that, but you know what? I wouldn't trade it for the world. Jared is a great guy. To see him mature as a leader, how he went from obviously being QB1 for what – not right away but pretty dang close, and kind of see how he matured and took steps in his game was really cool. I mean just having the personal relationship was awesome too. He's a great guy. Wouldn't trade it for the world, man."
Similarly, Brockers – Les Snead's first draft pick as Rams general manager – was there virtually every step of the way as defensive lineman Aaron Donald evolved into the best defensive player in the league. A two-time team captain and key veteran presence in the locker room, he was also the recipient of the Pro Football Writers of America Los Angeles chapter's first "Good Guy" award recognizing his willingness to talk with and be available to reporters in 2020. He was also just as important of a part of the Rams' four-straight winning seasons under McVay and them reaching the Super Bowl in 2018.
"You look at a (DL) Sebastian Joseph-Day, you look at a (DL) Greg Gaines, (DL) A'Shawn Robinson, I think those guys have done a really nice job of filling that void, but you miss his presence, you miss his personality, his production," McVay said. "Michael was a great player for us."
Donald came along as a first round pick two years after Brockers did, and the pair played seven seasons together. Brockers told Detroit reporters this week that Donald's own work ethic continues to inspire him.
Brockers likewise still means a lot to Donald. The two still talk every week, and earlier this week, they were on a group FaceTime call with Rams defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and former Rams defensive lineman and current Panthers defensive lineman Morgan Fox.
"He's been with me since Day 1," Donald said of Brockers. "So you build a bond with somebody that's a real brotherhood, that you're close with outside of football, that you hang with a lot. We've just got a close relationship. I wish he was still here, but he's not."
As is the case with current teammate Matthew Stafford, once the ball is snapped, it will be just another game for them.
"Right now, it's nothing, you're preparing the same as you would for any other game," Kupp said. "It's going to be great to see him. Dap him up before the game, say hi, but then it's gametime, and you've just got to go out there and play the game."
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams on the practice field as they prepare to take on the Detroit Lions at SoFi Stadium in Week 7.