The countdown to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA has officially begun as the week to the big game kicked off on Monday with the NFL's annual Opening Night.
Super Bowl Opening Night is an annual event in which media members from across the globe congregate inside an arena to interview players and coaches from both teams playing in the Super Bowl.
In past years, the Opening Night was a star-studded affair complete with team and player introductions, pyrotechnics, hilarious costumes, celebrities, marriage proposals, and "I'm just here so I don't get fined." The entirety of the event lasts an hour per team, and the NFL sells tickets to the show so fans can watch their favorite journalists interview their favorite players.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last two iterations of Super Bowl Opening Night have been conducted virtually over Zoom. Monday's Opening Night to Super Bowl LVI was no different as hundreds of media members had to instead "raise their hands" virtually over Zoom in order to ask their questions.
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The head coach and nine players of both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams were made available to the media on Monday night, and NBC LA sports reporter Michael J. Duarte was on the Zooms for the Q & A sessions. After an arduous task of transcribing over 10 hours of interviews, here's the best moments of the Rams Opening Night media interviews:
Robert Woods is on the Rams minds
Starting wide receiver Robert Woods was off to a stellar start to the season in 2021. Through the Rams first nine games, the LA-native had 45 receptions for 556 yards and four touchdowns.
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However, just before the Rams week 10 showdown with the rival San Francisco 49ers, and one day after the team signed Odell Beckham Jr., Woods tore his ACL during a non-contact play in practice and underwent season-ending surgery.
Weeks later, Woods father suddenly, and unexpectedly passed away. Since that time, Woods has been in the thoughts and prayers of his Rams' teammates. After weeks away from the team rehabbing and grieving, Woods returned to SoFi stadium to watch the NFC Championship game and was seen on the field during the postgame celebration hugging Cooper Kupp. Needless to say, both players were overcome with a bevy of emotions.
During Monday's Opening Night, Woods was once again the topic of conversation for many players, including these emotional moments from left-tackle Andrew Whitworth and quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Less than a month ago, safety Eric Weddle was enjoying the life of a retired NFL athlete in sunny San Diego. Between driving his kids to and from school and to sports and watching football on the couch, Weddle's dreams of one day playing in the Super Bowl seemed like a long forgotten distant memory. But then a call from Rams' defensive coordinator Raheem Morris changed everything.
After injuries to safeties Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp in the final game of the regular season, the Rams were suddenly and desperately in need of some help in the secondary. Morris called Weddle to see if he was still in shape. Weddle said he was. Then a call from head coach Sean McVay continued the recruitment. After a lengthy talk with Jalen Ramsey, his wife Chanel, and their kids, Weddle decided to take the Rams up on the once in a lifetime opportunity to come out of a retirement for a postseason run.
Three weeks later he would lead the team in tackles in the Rams NFC Championship victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Now, Weddle is playing in the Super Bowl for the first time in his career. During Monday's Opening Night, he had two amazing moments: one in which he joked about wide receiver Tee Higgins being on his fantasy football team and now he has to stop him in real life, and another about the time he met Kobe Bryant, and the wisdom he imparted on him that would change his life.
If anyone knows about what it takes to win the Super Bowl, it's Von Miller. The Rams pass rusher was the MVP of Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos and is now passing down the wisdom he learned from veteran teammates like Peyton Manning, Aqib Talib, and DeMarcus Ware on this current crop of Rams players.
On Monday, Miller said that the Rams would need to go to another level in order to win the Super Bowl against the Bengals. What's that level you might ask? How about extra terrestrial!
In order to win Super Bowl 50, Miler and the Broncos first had to go through the G.O.A.T. in Tom Brady. Something the Rams now know well after defeating the seven-time Super Bowl Champion in the NFC Divisional Round in Tampa Bay two weeks ago. Brady retired shortly after that game and Rams' defensive tackle, another play who might be one day be considered the G.O.A.T at his position, shared his thoughts on TB12:
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay isn't your stereotypical coach. At just 36 years of age, McVay is hoping to become the youngest coach in NFL history to ever win the Super Bowl.
With his red spiky hair and stubble, McVay has been compared to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz and the Sherminator from the American Pie franchise. Despite his appearance, McVay surprised many NFL fans on Opening Night when he was asked by Nick Hamilton of Nitecast media what music he listens to before games. After first proclaiming he has "good music swag," McVay revealed he's really an R&B guy listening to Luther Vandross and Bobby Brown:
The Rams have an NFL MVP candidate on their roster this season and it's surprisingly not Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, or Matthew Stafford. The triple-crown winner of receiving and AP Offensive Player of the Year winner is none other than wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Kupp was injured the last time the Rams' made the Super Bowl during the 2018 season, so he's eager to play in the big game on Sunday. Asked by NFL Insider Adam Schefter's daughter Dylan about his memories from watching the Super Bowl growing up, Kupp said the big game was an annual holiday with the Kupp family complete with his dad's famous homemade nachos. After sharing that memory, Kupp does what he does best, and breaks down defensive coverages and what it takes to be a great receiver in the NFL:
Everyone knows that Los Angeles is the city of champions, but that's never been more apparent than right now. Both the Lakers and Dodgers won championships in 2020, and now, just 16 months later, the Rams are looking to add another title to Tinseltown. But we'll late Jalen Ramsey tell you:
One of the newest members of the Los Angeles Rams this season is wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. After a collegiate career at LSU, OBJ had stints with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns before signing with the Rams in the middle of the 2021 season. Beckham remembers watching current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow lead his LSU Tigers to the National Championship in 2020, and even knows what you'll find if you look up the word "cool" in the dictionary.
But without a doubt the greatest moment of Super Bowl Opening Night is when Jarvis Landry, Beckham Jr.'s best friend and teammate at both LSU and the Browns, crashed the Zoom interview to tell his friend how much he loves him and how proud of him he is. The moment gave OBJ chills, and brought the rest of us watching to tears. Check it out below: