Jared Goff and Rams take a shine to new SoFi Stadium, a ‘crown jewel’

Rams get on the field for the first time at SoFi Stadium on Saturday.
The Rams got on the field for the first time at SoFi Stadium on Saturday by holding a team scrimmage. The Chargers plan to do the same Thursday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Two years ago, Jared Goff and his Rams teammates toured the dusty Inglewood construction site of what was then an unnamed stadium. The young quarterback marked the occasion by passing a ball to a worker standing in what would become the lower bowl seats.

On Saturday, Goff tossed passes to receivers in $5-billion SoFi Stadium for the first time as the Rams conducted a practice in preparation for their Sept. 13 opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

“It was really amazing,” Goff said. “It’s truly unbelievable and truly one of the crown jewels in sports right now.”

After arriving at the stadium by bus, players and coaches walked onto the field, some shooting photos and videos on their phones.

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“This is pretty awesome,” linebacker Samson Ebukam said after the practice.

Said coach Sean McVay: “Never seen anything like it.”

Kevin O’Connell, the Rams’ new offensive coordinator, is relishing the chance to finally work on the field with quarterback Jared Goff.

Unfortunately for fans, they probably won’t get a chance to experience the stadium in person anytime soon.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the NFL to cancel preseason games. Regular-season games will be played in stadiums with few or no fans. The Rams have not yet announced what their policy will be for the “Sunday Night Football” opener against the Cowboys.

But the conditions Saturday portended what is expected to be the norm.

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With more than 70,000 empty seats, crowd noise was piped in. The huge, double-sided Oculus video board showed action and replays that were viewed exclusively by players and coaches on the field and masked reporters seated at a social distance in the press box.

Rams play a scrimmage for the first time at an empty SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A look at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Saturday during a Rams team scrimmage.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“There’s nothing like real crowd noise,” McVay said, “In some instances, that fake crowd noise is nothing but irritating.”

McVay also was frustrated by headset malfunctions experienced by the coaching staff “that made it very chaotic,” he said.

But McVay and Goff said the problems would be worked out in the coming weeks — the Rams will practice again at the stadium on Saturday — and Goff sounded as if he could get used to a stadium that is open air in the upper levels behind the end zone.

“As a quarterback, anytime it’s indoors you love it,” he said. “And it’s a little bit of both — there’s that little breeze you can feel at times. But it is fairly indoors for the most part. The ball jumps here.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff looks to pass during scrimmage at SoFi Stadium on Saturday.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff said he loved the throwing conditions in the stadium.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The offense wore new bone-colored uniforms and the defense donned royal blue uniforms for the two-hour workout that mainly featured situational sequences. Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald was a disruptor throughout. No tackling was allowed, except during live periods for younger players when starters and other key contributors were safely ensconced on the sidelines.

McVay’s plan to replace running back Todd Gurley began to come into focus. Veteran Malcolm Brown started and got most of the first-team snaps.

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Rookie Cam Akers also got some first-team work but lost a fumble when Donald stripped the ball. Darrell Henderson got a few plays early but was sidelined thereafter because of an unspecified “soft tissue” injury, McVay said.

Backup quarterback John Wolford had positive results against the first-team defense and against reserves.

The Rams are practicing in earnest for the 2020 NFL season, and there are plenty of position battles for coach Sean McVay to judge in the weeks ahead.

On his first series against the No. 1 defense, Wolford broke off a 37-yard run, completed a third down pass with star cornerback Jalen Ramsey in coverage and tossed a short touchdown pass to wide receiver Nsimba Webster.

Wolford also connected with rookie receiver Van Jefferson for a touchdown pass in the rear corner of the end zone in a series against reserves.

“He’s got some Doug Flutie-type stuff in him,” McVay said of Wolford’s ability to break free and create plays.

Etc.

The placekicking competition heated up with Lirim Hajrullahu, Austin MacGinnis and Sam Sloman all getting consecutive opportunities from the same distances. Hajrullahu converted all of his attempts, from 38, 38, 50, 43 and 48 yards. MacGinnis made kicks from 38, 50 and 48 yards. Sloman made kicks from 38, 43 and 48 yards. ... Rookie safeties Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller continued to impress. Rookie edge rusher Terrell Lewis also made a few plays. ... Undrafted quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and Josh Love each took snaps during a live-tackling portion of the workout.