The Super Bowl Report: Three Rams remember moving from St. Louis to L.A.

Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Gary Klein on the Rams: During a 2016 team meeting in a Manhattan Beach hotel ballroom, Rams players glimpsed renderings of a new Inglewood stadium for the first time.


The Rams were two months removed from the NFL approving their move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Their meeting, which preceded a news conference and house-hunting excursions by players, was the first step in the return-to-L.A. process.

The conceptual drawings of what would eventually become $5-billion SoFi Stadium impressed players in the abstract. Yet veterans, accustomed to the league’s annual roster turnover, were circumspect that they still would be members of the Rams when the stadium was completed.

“Every guy that’s kind of older on the team, you’re elbowing each other thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be great for those young guys to be able to play in in the future,’” punter Johnny Hekker said.

Hekker, star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and starting right tackle Rob Havenstein are the only players who played in St. Louis that remain on the Rams roster.

All three have played pivotal roles for the Rams throughout their careers, and all will be in the starting lineup when the Rams play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium next Sunday.

Hekker, Havenstein and Donald occasionally reflect that they are still together.

“We joke once in a blue moon about it,” Donald said. “You never know what to expect. You hope to be at this point and have success like this.”

Donald, 30, has enjoyed enormous achievement in Los Angeles. He was voted NFL defensive player of the year in 2017, again in 2018 — when he helped lead the Rams to Super Bowl LIII — and again in 2020, joining Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as the only three-time winners.

Before coach Sean McVay replaced the fired Jeff Fisher in 2017, the Rams had the then-30-year-old McVay speak with Donald.

“You know that Aaron was a really important factor because part of the interview process entailed me meeting Aaron, and him being like, ‘All right, I guess this little guy can maybe be a head coach for us,’” McVay said.

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Two Super Bowl polls for you to vote in: Which team will win, and who will be named the game’s MVP? Click here to vote. Results will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.


Jeff Miller on the Bengals: He sat in the bar he owns, the one just down the street from Paul Brown Stadium, the one that opened nearly 11 years ago but never has been more perfectly named than now.

The Holy Grail.

Jim Moehring first described the victory that caused him to tear up, then the one that netted his bar a game ball, and finally the triumph that stunk of sweet cigar smoke.

Three weeks. Three wins. One topic.

Cincinnati’s NFL team.

“Here we are talking about the Bengals in February,” he said. “We haven’t done that in 30 years. Well, that Super Bowl was in January. So we’ve never done that. Ever.”

Yes, the Bengals have outlasted everything from their wanting history to their loaded conference to their unyielding doubters on a title-game run foreseen only by those fans looking with their hearts.

And for 33 years this team has teased and tested, even twisted the hearts of its faithful. Now, a franchise locally famous for splitting apart souls is bringing a city together.

“All the bumps along the way — no, not bumps — major road blocks …” Moehring, 54, said, “all the questioning of ownership and the questioning of desire and the questioning of everything else … everybody’s just galvanized now.”


Raheem Morris is one of the chosen ones, which made him a reluctant spokesperson for the controversy that has embroiled the NFL as it approaches its signature event.

Morris is the Rams’ defensive coordinator.

He is Black.

And when the Rams share the field at SoFi Stadium with the Cincinnati Bengals next weekend, the 45-year-old Morris will be the highest-ranking Black coach on either sideline at a Super Bowl played against the backdrop of former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and some of its teams.

“When I heard [about] the lawsuit, I just felt like it was just unfortunate we even have to talk about this,” said Morris, a former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He is right, of course.

In a perfect world, conversations would be focused on the upcoming game. But they can’t be, not with the specificity of the allegations made by Flores, not with Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers the only Black head coach in a 32-team league in which the majority of players are Black.

“Obviously, we have a lack of diversity hiring in the National Football League and that’s clear-cut,” Morris said.

The problem isn’t that teams are hiring coaches who they think will win them games. The problem is that almost every team thinks almost every single time that a white coach is more likely to deliver results.

But Morris said he personally hasn’t felt the effects of the invisible white hand that guides coaching hires in the NFL.

Morris started counting the number of times he has interviewed to be a head coach.

“One, two, three ...”

The count reached five.

“I didn’t feel that way in any of them,” Morris said.

The reference was to how Flores says he feels he was subjected to “sham” interviews by the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. Flores has argued that neither team ever seriously considered hiring him and spoke to him only to satisfy the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching vacancies.


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told teams Saturday that the league will look to bolster policies meant to encourage hiring of minorities, particularly as head coaches, and he pledged an investigation into tanking allegations raised by Brian Flores in his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL.

“We will reevaluate and examine all policies, guidelines and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion, including as they relate to gender,” Goodell wrote in a memo to the league’s 32 clubs that was obtained by the Associated Press.

The commissioner added that the league’s record on hiring minority coaches has been “unacceptable.”

The memo came five days after Flores sued the league and three teams over alleged racist hiring practices for coaches and general managers, saying the league remains “rife with racism” even as it publicly condemns it.

Another serious allegation by Flores is his claim that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told him he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach’s first season because the owner wanted the club to “tank” so it could get the top draft pick. The Dolphins went 5-11 that year; the Cincinnati Bengals went 2-14 and used the No. 1 pick on quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the team to this season’s Super Bowl.

“We also take seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games,” Goodell’s letter said. “These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently. We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds.”


Can’t wait for the Super Bowl? Fans can get their football fix a week early at an interactive exhibition that opened Saturday at the L.A. Convention Center.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the history of the NFL, collect autographs and take photos with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. One display will showcase all 55 Super Bowl rings.

“Super Bowl Experience” runs Saturday and Sunday and Feb. 10-12 at the Convention Center.

Here’s a photo gallery of what you can see and do there.


The Super Bowl is coming to Los Angeles, and with it a laundry list of parties, concerts and “experiences.”

Football’s biggest night will take place at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, featuring the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. (The Rams are technically the visiting team, as the official “host” rotates each year between the AFC and NFC.)

Tickets for the big game are going for an average of $9,249 — and that’s not including parking, which could set you back another several thousand dollars. If you’re looking for a (relatively) cheaper way to get in on the festivities, we’ve got your roundup of Super Bowl week events, sorted from free to big ticket.

Click here for a list of 10 things to do in L.A. during Super Bowl week.


Super Bowl Sunday
Feb. 13
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 1/2 points

TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports

To buy tickets (after mortgaging your house to afford them): Ticketmaster, OnLocation, HOFExperiences, VividSeats, SeatGeek

Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.

Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.


Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.

We continue with the second-round results from the Walter Payton Region:

No. 1 1985 Chicago Bears d. No. 8 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, 27-21
Walter Payton and Matt Suhey ran for touchdowns and the Bears defense hurried Carson Wentz all game, as he finished 14 of 37 for 188 yards and an interception.

No. 6 1953 Detroit Lions d. No. 3 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers, 14-11
Bobby Layne threw two touchdown passes to Dorne Dibble and the Lions’ defense intercepted three Terry Bradshaw passes

No. 5 1963 Chicago Bears d. No. 13 2006 Indianapolis Colts, 32-17
The Bears’ ground game wore down the Colts as they rushed for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

No. 7 1994 San Francisco 49ers d No. 15 1951 Los Angeles Rams 35-7
The Rams were no match for Steve Young and Jerry Rice. Rice had 256 yards and four touchdowns and Young finished with 329 yards passing. The 49ers led 35-0 at halftime and coasted from there.

Tomorrow: Second-round results from the Joe Montana Region. The teams:

No. 1 1984 San Francisco 49ers vs. No. 8 1992 Dallas Cowboys
No. 3 2004 New England Patriots vs. No. 11 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 5 1964 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 13 1987 Washington Redskins
No. 7 1996 Green Bay Packers vs. No, 15 1967 Green Bay Packers


I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.

Max Muhleman of Charlotte: Johnny Unitas. Never a pass he couldn’t throw-and hit-in the clutch. Fiery leadership of one of the game’s most colorful teams meant nothing was ever lost till time ran out.

Stephanie A. Westmyer: Former Rams player Kurt Warner is my favorite football player personally and professionally. I like his underdog story of patience and perseverance propelled him into the NFL. Professionally, I like the way he started his career with the MVP and Super Bowl championship and ended his career in 2009 that took him to postseason play. The way he responded to Bountygate is a class act.

Bill Groak of Los Angeles: Jack Youngblood. Great old-school player who played in the Super Bowl in 1980 against Pittsburgh on a broken leg. Before the game, the Rams were labeled “soft.” After the game, in which the Rams almost upset the mighty Steelers, a dejected but defiant Youngblood told reporters that anyone who says the Rams are soft can “come talk to him.”

And finally

Highlights from Super Bowl XXI (Broncos vs. Giants). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXII (Redskins vs. Broncos). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXIII (Bengals vs. 49ers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XXIV (49ers vs. Broncos). Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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