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Rams’ Sean McVay says he didn’t mean to slight Jared Goff

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INGLEWOOD — On the day the Rams opened practice to fans at SoFi Stadium, Coach Sean McVay opened up more than he intended about the team’s quarterback change.

Appearing with Stafford earlier Thursday at the stadium in an event put on by Super Bowl LVI organizers, McVay was asked by emcee Kevin Frazier what he thinks of the Rams’ biggest offseason addition.

“I think I’ve been very happy,” McVay said. “Everyone says, ‘Man, you just seem like you’re in a better mood this offseason.’ I say, ‘You’re damn right I am!’

“This guy, he’s a special guy,” McVay said of Stafford, describing the player’s combination of confidence and humility. “He’s one of those guys that I think is a true igniter. He makes everybody around him better.

“I feel like I’ve become a better coach in the few months that we’ve been able to spend together, and we’re looking forward to doing a lot of good things together.”

A few hours later, McVay seemed weirdly surprised and upset that people had taken his remark as denigrating Jared Goff, the quarterback the Rams traded to the Lions to acquire Stafford in January.

“I hate that I even have to say this, but I think I made a comment earlier that was definitely taken out of context,” McVay said before taking a question at his post-practice video conference with Rams beat reporters.

“I am very excited, I have been in a good mood because of the confidence I have in this team. But by no means is that a slight to anybody, like Jared, who has done a phenomenal job the last four years here.”

McVay finished in a mock-scolding tone: “Don’t twist my words when I didn’t say that.”

Then he took questions about what was supposed to be the topic of the day, the open-to-the-public practice that capped the Rams’ three weeks of official spring workouts.

Holders of about 35,000 free tickets, scattered throughout the 70,000-seat stadium, took advantage of the first chance for home fans to see the Rams in person since the pre-COVID-19 days of 2019.

The practice session was delayed for a half-hour and shortened because several players were held up by late-afternoon traffic, a reminder of why the NFL rarely makes the Rams play weeknight home games.

But the crowd buzzed with excitement when Stafford aired out his arm and connected on 50-yard passes to rookie Tutu Atwell and second-year receiver Van Jefferson.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke looked pleased on the sideline.

It was enough to restore McVay’s good mood.

“You’re reminded of the energy and the atmosphere that’s created by the fans,” he said. “I said to a handful of our players and coaches, ‘Can you imagine how rockin’ this thing is going to be on ‘Sunday Night Football’ when we open up against the Bears (Sept. 12)?’ That has me excited.”

The Rams’ first preseason game is Aug. 14 against the Chargers.

They’re now off until training camp opens at UC Irvine the week of July 25.

McVay said he’ll use some of that time to vacation in New York, Greece and Monaco with his fiancee Veronika Khomyn.

He said he and General Manager Les Snead have discussed looking to sign players to fill out “a couple of positions” to build depth going into preseason games, in which McVay doesn’t like to play his starters.

The team doesn’t have any injuries serious enough to worry about, McVay said.

He’d been asked at the Super Bowl organizers’ event how he handles high expectations for the 2021 Rams.

“I think you embrace them,” McVay said. “I think we can accomplish a lot of good things. But the only way you do that is by putting together a good training camp, finishing off the offseason program the right way (Thursday), and giving ourselves a chance to start 1-0 in our own building against the Bears on Sunday night football.”

No controversy there.

SUPER BOWL BUILDUP

Fifty-six L.A.-area non-profit organizations were named winners of grants through the Super Bowl LVI Legacy Program in an event Thursday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, site of the next Super Bowl on Feb. 13, 2022.

“Their reach spans the gamut of this county, from Compton to Burbank, Boyle Heights to the Northeast San Fernando Valley, from Watts to Hollywood, Long Beach to East L.A., and, yes, right here in Inglewood,” said Renata Simril, president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation and President of the Play Equity Fund, which presented the honors with the L.A. Super Bowl Host Committee and the NFL Foundation.

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