THOUSAND OAKS, Ca –On the campus of California Lutheran College, which is the Los Angeles Rams' headquarters until the stadium in Inglewood is complete, LA's football team went through a spirited practice to prepare for the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
"Man, they're a good football team, but we've had success against them and we have great respect for them," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said after practice, referencing the Rams beating the Seahawks in both meetings during the 2015 NFL season. "I'm pleased with where we are right now."
Sunday, though, is more than simply a game between two NFC West rivals. It's the return of NFL football to Los Angeles and the Rams' return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time in over two decades.
"It's the first one that counts at the Coliseum—the first one that counts here at home, so it's special," Fisher said. "We couldn't think of a better opponent to open against. All the stuff with Pete (Carroll) and coming back to the Coliseum for the first time, and the little rivalry we've established here the last couple of years. It's special."
Carroll, who is currently coach of the Seahawks, coached at the University of Southern California and built a mini-dynasty during his tenure with the Trojans. On a conference call the previous day, Carroll shared his thoughts on returning to the site of his greatest college successes as a coach.
"It's going to be fun," Carroll said. "I've looked forward to it ever since the switch took place – we kind of all looked forward to playing those guys down there. It'll be fun to be back."
Beyond himself, Carroll also expressed his joy at the NFL's return to Los Angeles.
Carroll added, "I have looked forward to it, just because I know that it'll be so much fun for so many people. They've been waiting for the league to come back and the excitement of the NFL and all the great matchups that will happen in here during the coming years. I'm proud that we get to be the first ones that start this thing."
The Rams also made headlines on Thursday by extending defensive tackle Michael Brockers' contract by three years. The Rams drafted Brockers in 2012, and the giant plug in the middle of the defensive line is now set to stay with the team through the 2019 season.
"I'm really excited about that," Fisher said about the signing. "I appreciate (Rams owner) Stan (Kroenke) and his willingness to allow us to go and do that. We've been talking for quite some time about it, and it's important to keep our play makers and people that we drafted. And we got a good deal for both sides, and Michael is happy about it, and so are we."
Fisher added, "He's a big man inside, and you have to have that nowadays for two reasons: One, for your ability to stop the run inside; and two, to put pressure on the quarterback and collapse the pocket. So, he creates opportunities for everybody else and every so often, he makes a big play himself. He's been consistent."
In the locker room, Brockers wore a giant smile that matched his giant frame.
"It feels good to be wanted," the 25-year-old said. "I'm just glad it's done, it's finished and I can get that little thing out of my mind and actually focus on football."
Brockers added, "It feels to be good to be here where I started."
Of course, the team is intent on erasing the memory of the 28-0 thrashing to the San Francisco 49ers on opening night. With the home season opener drawing interest from far and wide, and even featuring a pregame performance from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the players sounded determined to give LA a victory.
"This fan base, they want to see wins," Brockers said. "That's what they deserve, and that's what we're going to give them. I think last week was a fluke. It wasn't us. This week, we're more focused and we're coming out ready to play."
Notes: The Rams will wear their throwback uniforms for Sunday's opening game. Fisher commented, "The players love them. The players love the colors." Seemingly, the fans love those colors, too, so a return to the old uniforms on a permanent basis would seem like a smart move in the not-too-distant future.