After watching it build from scratch, Jared Goff made just seven appearances for the Rams at SoFi Stadium.
He never heard applause. Or boo.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans were not allowed to attend games at the new stadium for the 2020 season.
Goff, once the face of the Rams franchise, returns Sunday to the $ 5 billion site as a defender for the Detroit Lions losers.
“I’ve never seen it with fans,” Goff told reporters in Detroit this week, “so it’ll be cool to see it and just be there.”
Will he be greeted or booed?
“I think he will be well received,” said Rams coach Sean McVeigh. “I think LA fans and Rams fans know what a great job he did and how much he meant to the Rams organization, both as a footballer and [in] community.”
McVeigh, of course, unceremoniously banished Goff to Detroit in January in exchange for Rams veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Stafford led the Rams to a 5-1 record. Goff and Lions – 0-6.
McVeigh, who said he focuses on open, honest communication with players, spent a week answering questions about how impartial he was about Goff during the trade. Goff, the top pick in the 2016 NFL draft, said he appreciated McVeigh for admitting mistakes but still being patient.
How this plays out on the pitch will be one of the main stories on Sunday in a game that also heralds the return to Los Angeles for defender lineman Michael Brokers and defensive coach Aubrey Pleasant.
Lions coach Dan Campbell spoke to Goff about how to deal with emotional feedback.
“Look, there’s going to be emotion when you’re in the place for so long, especially when you’re the quarterback, you know, you’re the face of the franchise — there’s going to be some emotion,” Campbell said. … “But he also knows, and we know,” God, up to this point, everything is done to prepare and help your team have the best chance of success. “
Rams players are looking forward to meeting their former teammate.
Recipient Robert Woods credited Goff with helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl and for helping him become a 1000 yard receiver.
“I hope he plays well,” Woods said, “but we win.”
Tyler Higby said that Goff was “my boyfriend on and off the pitch” and was happy to have him back.
“I’m always rooting for him,” Higby said. “I want him to succeed – just not against the Sheep.”
Receiver Cooper Kupp wants Goff to play well against all teams except the one with which he started his career.
“I want to go and kick their ass,” Kupp said.
Goff, who has seven touchdowns with four interceptions, is not the only quarterback to play against his former team.
Stafford, 33, played 12 seasons for the Lions before the owner agreed to trade him in the offseason.
“Everyone wants me to say, ‘I passed the Rams,” said Stafford, who has made 16 touchdowns with four interceptions. “I asked for an exchange, not knowing where I was going to be. There were many different places where I thought I could go. I ended up here.
“I am very happy to be here, I hurt myself by being able to play for this team with these players and these coaches.”
Stafford said the Lions still have familiar faces, but many of the players and coaches are rookies.
“I will love the opportunity to see some of those guys with whom I spent a lot of time and played a lot of meaningful football,” he said. “But at the same time, as soon as the ball is hit, I do everything I can to play my best and help our team win.”
Stafford plays for the Rams, which includes defensive stars such as lineman Aaron Donald and full-back Jalen Ramsey.
Goff spent five seasons training occasionally against Donald, and a season and a half training against Ramsey. But he never absorbed the tackles of either of them as teammates.
“They have some good players and they do some good things, and I, like everyone else, know that they are well trained and do a great job,” he said. “So this will be a challenge.”