By Nicki Jhabvala
Pro Football Writers of America
ATLANTA — Following three days of practice at the Atlanta Falcons’ training facility in Flowery Branch, the L.A. Rams began to put the final touches on their week of planning and spent some time enjoying the moment with friends and family.
Saturday around 1 p.m., after meetings and a walkthrough held at their hotel in Buckhead, the Rams slipped on their blue throwback jerseys and yellow pants for a team photo inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Coaches stood at the top and players on the bottom rungs of the bleachers placed at the 5-yard line, with general manager Les Snead, owner Stan Kroenke and coach Sean McVay planted front and center.
Then they scattered individual photos, positional group photos, selfies and time with family members, who were allowed down on the field. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth chased his kids around the field, running back C.J. Anderson’s mom chatted up McVay, cornerback Aqib Talib introduced defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to his youngest son, and for about 40 minutes all soaked in their journey to Super Bowl LIII.
“It’s great,” McVay said. “This is something I’ve never really been a part of. It’s really special. We’ve got a few players and coaches that have been a part of Super Bowls in previous years, but for a lot of guys it’s their first time and I think it’s definitely something you want to cherish.”
When family time ended around 2 p.m., players and coaches returned to the stadium locker room and prepared for an evening of additional meetings as the focus shifted back to football.
“I feel really good,” McVay said. “I think they understand the time where they can enjoy themselves right now, but when we’re doing football-related things, locking into the game plan, they’ve done a great job. And I think that’s kind of been this team’s personality really this whole season. It’s a good balance; they enjoy themselves, but not at the expense of allowing it to affect our focus and concentration.”
McVay said his team enters the game with a clean bill of health; both safety Blake Countess and kicker Greg Zuerlein, who were previously on the injury report with foot injuries, are good to go. Both practiced in full Friday.
“They’re going to be playing in the game,” McVay said. “Unless something changes from now until then, we should be good.”
Over the last week and a half, McVay placed an emphasis on maintaining a similar routine — as similar as possible, anyway — in preparing for the New England Patriots. The Rams installed the majority of their game plan last week in L.A., then used this week for final tweaks and adjustments.
“It’s a good delicate balance of making sure that you don’t do too many things, having two weeks to get ready for an opponent,” McVay said. “But the main thing is the players having ownership on what we’re going to do and I think they feel good and confident.”
Sunday, because of a later (6:30 p.m. ET) kickoff, the Rams will use the morning at their hotel to run through it all one last time. Players will have an “activation,” in which the strength and conditioning staff will get them loose and put them through a stretch.
“Then we’ll have quick meetings, a walkthrough and pre-game meal and then come over and here we go,” McVay said while taking a look around the stadium. “… I think you realize the magnitude of this event really with the media coverage and things like this. I’ve kind of stayed at the hotel. My parents have come over and I’ve seen them a bit, then going to practice back and forth. I haven’t really gotten out much, but hopefully we’ll take care of business and be able to enjoy after tomorrow.”