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Rams rookie safety Jordan Fuller says his first NFL game was a surreal experience

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott eludes Rams defenders Jordan Fuller (32) and Darious Williams on Sept. 14, 2020.
The Rams’ Jordan Fuller (32) could not stop the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott on this play, but the rookie made the tackle of the game in the fourth quarter Sunday night.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

He spent his childhood dreaming about it and prepared for the opportunity during four seasons at Ohio State and in training camp with the Rams.

When rookie safety Jordan Fuller stepped onto the field at SoFi Stadium as a starter against the Dallas Cowboys, he described it as a surreal experience.

“That was one for the books,” Fuller told reporters Monday during a videoconference.

Fuller, a sixth-round draft pick, played all but one of 72 defensive snaps in Sunday night’s 20-17 season-opening victory. He made one of the biggest plays of the game by tackling wide receiver CeeDee Lamb short of a first down on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

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Fuller finished with a team-best eight tackles against a Cowboys team that features numerous playmakers.

Running backs Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson combined for 124 yards in the Rams’ 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

“He had some plays that we definitely expect him to be better,” coach Sean McVay said Monday, adding, “What I love is that he just stayed the course, ended up making the biggest play of the game. ... That was arguably a game-winning play.”

When training camp opened in August, Fuller was regarded as a potential rotational player behind projected starters John Johnson and Taylor Rapp in new coordinator Brandon Staley’s defense.

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But a knee injury sidelined Rapp for most of training camp, enabling Fuller and fellow rookie safety Terrell Burgess to work with the first-team defense.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing offseason programs to be conducted virtually — with no on-field organized team activities — training camp served as a crash course for Fuller.

“For him to come in without any OTAs, without any kind of opportunity to kind of build that stuff up early on, only having training camp to be able to develop and get a grasp of the defense, he’s done an incredible job of being able to adapt from college to pro and the speed and the concepts that we run at the pro level,” Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp told reporters Monday.

Fuller, 6 feet 2 and 203 pounds, said he has relied on coaches and teammates such as Johnson, Rapp and three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey to ease his transition.

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Johnson, he said, has “played at a Pro Bowl level in previous years, so [he’s] definitely somebody I lean on” on and off the field.

“He goes out of his way sometimes, like when we’re watching film, he’s like, ‘Hey Jordan, if you look this way, like, you could make this play.’

“So he’s been awesome, but it’s really been everybody.”

Fuller was ready when the Cowboys drove to the Rams’ 11-yard line in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-three, quarterback Dak Prescott found Lamb on a short route.

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Fuller took over from there.

“CeeDee was my responsibility, and I had to take him across the field,” Fuller said. “And there was a bunch of traffic coming from the other side.

“I had to get over the top of it and take away as much space as I could and make the play. It all happens pretty fast.”

Fuller stopped Lamb short of the first down, ending the Cowboys’ threat and giving the ball back to the Rams’ offense with a 20-17 lead.

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Breaking down the important numbers behind the Rams’ 20-17 season-opening win over the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

The defense made several more big plays to secure the victory. When Fuller got to the locker room, his phone was full of congratulatory texts and social media notifications from friends, family and fans.

“It was a bit overwhelming,” he said.

The Rams visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Fuller will be ready.

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“I’m nowhere close to where I want to be yet,” he said.

Etc.


The NFL sent a memo to teams reminding them that face coverings and social distancing are required for everyone with bench-area access. McVay acknowledged he did not fully adhere to the policy during Sunday’s game. “I’ve been getting blasted all day about it,” he said, adding, “I know I was definitely one of the main culprits of not following what the league wants, and I will definitely be aware of that and do better next week.”… Kupp on signing a three-year contract extension Saturday that could be worth as much as $48 million: “Very excited. I mean, just to be able to know that we can be here and just for the opportunity to continue to be a Los Angeles Ram. I love the organization, just everything they stand for, everything that we do here. So to be able to come into this facility and know that I get to do that again for the years to come is a really exciting thing for me.” ... Kupp was a punt returner against the Cowboys, and McVay said he would continue in that role.


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