Two years ago, in a Monday night season opener in the Bay Area, Jared Goff was a Rams rookie quarterback relegated to the sidelines in a sweat suit.
The No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft was No. 3 on the Rams’ depth chart. Case Keenum and Sean Mannion went through warmups at Levi’s Stadium, and then Goff stood by helplessly as the San Francisco 49ers shut out the Rams on “Monday Night Football.”
“It feels like forever ago,” Goff said Tuesday.
Next week, when the Rams play the Oakland Raiders, Goff returns to the region where he grew up and attended college for another “Monday Night Football” opener.
His circumstances are markedly changed.
Goff, 23, is the undisputed starter and triggerman for a Rams team that is among the favorites to play in the Super Bowl.
After struggling to an 0-7 record as a starter in 2016, he is an ascending star who helped guide the Rams to the NFC West title last season and then made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
“I'm excited for the game,” he said. “We get to see all of my family up there, have a lot of family at the game and get to go play a good team.”
Goff said he was securing tickets for nearly 40 family members and friends.
They will be among the curious as the Rams go into the game with heightened expectations.
The Rams got an extra day of practice this week because of the Monday opener. Rams coach Sean McVay changed workouts from early afternoon to early evening because of the 7:20 p.m. kickoff.
The Rams went through a late-afternoon walk-through Tuesday, and Goff and his receivers were scheduled to do some work under the lights at Cal Lutheran.
“It’s really smart,” Goff said of preparing with late practices. “I was happy we did that. Just having a late start, especially in your first game when we haven't played in a real game in so long, and playing a night game, can kind of feel weird at first.”
The late kickoff is not expected to affect the players’ performances. But running back Todd Gurley said this week that it would probably affect the viewing audience.
“Everybody on the East Coast is going to be asleep anyways,” he joked, “so it will just be the West Coast people watching the game.”
Tight end Johnny Mundt signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent before last season, and then promptly broke an ankle during rookie minicamp.
“I spent all last year really coming back from [the injury] and really wasn’t where I wanted to be,” said Mundt, who spent most of the season on the practice squad. “But I worked real hard in the offseason, got real flexible and remained real strong.”
Mundt’s work paid off: He made the Rams’ 53-man roster and is part of a tight ends group that includes Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett.
The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Mundt, who played at Oregon, blocked well and consistently caught passes. He had seven receptions for 57 yards in four preseason games, including four for 40 yards in the finale against the New Orleans Saints.
“I was still nervous during the cut period,” he said, “but I was confident what I put on film, so I was ready for anything.”
Now he is preparing to stay on the roster throughout the season.
“Having them have confidence in me was huge,” he said.