By Charean Williams
Pro Football Writers of America
FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia – Greg Zuerlein was last but certainly not least in the Rams’ last full practice before Super Bowl LIII. The kicker closed practice with seven field goal attempts and four kickoffs as the Rams ended their week at the Falcons’ training facility.
Coach Sean McVay called both Zuerlein’s practice and the team’s on Friday a success.
“It was a great day today, getting Greg and [safety] Blake [Countess] full,” McVay said. “We’re going into this game as healthy as you could hope for. Now, really it’s about just tightening things up, making sure we clean up any of the last little details, a little bit over 48 hours out. But there’s a confidence that I think has been earned. Certainly, we respect the Patriots, but we’re coming here with the expectation of winning a game.”
Zuerlein, who injured his left foot while warming up at halftime of the NFC Championship Game, has returned to full health. He was a full participant Friday and does not have an injury designation.
“He felt good,” McVay said. “He hit the ball well. He hit the kickoffs and his field goals really well. That’s kind of what we expected; that’s what we hoped, and he’ll be ready to go.”
Countess (foot) also was removed from the report and is available for the Rams on Sunday.
“Blake was good, too,” McVay said. “He was full. His foot felt good. He responded well, and he ended up having a good day today, moving around. Both those guys look like they’re going to be ready to go for the game.
“We expect to have everybody ready to roll.”
The Rams haven’t listed running back Todd Gurley on their injury report in three weeks – since the week before the divisional-round game against the Cowboys – and McVay deemed Gurley’s left knee at 100 percent.
“He’s feeling good, a hundred percent,” McVay said. “We expect him to play a big role in this game.”
After five touches for 13 yards in 32 snaps during the NFC Championship Game, Gurley is fresh and ready.
“He didn’t have that many touches, but he still played a good amount of snaps [against the Saints],” McVay said. “We just weren’t able to run it as much as we’d like to, because New Orleans did a nice job stopping us. Then, we were in some two-minute situations at the end of the game and the end of the half where you’re more inclined to throw it. He should be good. But I think really our team, as a whole, is feeling really good just having two weeks since our last game and looking forward to the challenge and competing to the best of our ability.”
For the second consecutive day, the Rams practiced outside at the Falcons’ training facility. It allowed them to work on grass instead of indoors on the turf.
As a bonus, it turned out to be a chamber of commerce day at 55 degrees and under a cloudless sky.
The Rams alternated the first-team defense’s work against the scout team with the first-team offense practicing against the scout team for an hour with two special teams periods.
They worked with music for the first time this week, though it was on as background noise and not used to simulate crowd noise.
“Typically what we do is we’ll really blare it depending on if we’re at home or away,” McVay said. “If we’re on the road, it’ll be blaring during offensive periods. If we’re at home, it’ll be during defensive periods. Now, in a static environment, we just kind of had it in the background. Hopefully there will be more Rams fans than Patriots, but you never know.”
The Rams do know it won’t be as loud as in New Orleans.
“I hope not,” McVay said. “If so, then that’s going to be trouble.”
Now 48 hours from kickoff, most of the Rams’ work is done. They will not return to Flowery Branch.
“Tomorrow, really will be exclusively meetings, have a little bit of a walk-through,” McVay said. “We’ll go over to the stadium and allow the families and friends who are here to come over and enjoy that. That will be more of an appreciation with all the people that are here to share in this journey with our players and our coaches. Then, we’ll have quick, little meetings tomorrow night. We’ll get up on Sunday and have some walk-throughs and meetings and anxiously await that kickoff at 6:30 or whatever it is.”
McVay does not expect to have anybody talk to the team before the game. The Rams had no special guests at their practices this week other than the required media, including the CBS crew on Thursday.
“We’ve been consistent where we try to stick to our message,” McVay said. “I just think this group is so tightknit. We kind of know what we stand for. We know what we need to do here. I don’t know that there’s any motivating words that I could say or anything else other than let’s just continue to do the little things the right way, one day at a time, have a belief and confidence in one another, play for each other and we trust that good things will happen.”