COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Like many of his teammates, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is thrilled that their upcoming showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs will be played at the L.A. Coliseum instead of Mexico City.
There’s just one small problem
“The worst thing about it being back in L.A. is 30 people texting me trying to come to the game,” Gurley said with a laugh, before turning serious. “No, it’s going to be fun.”
It’s a stark contrast to the past week for the Rams, which hasn’t exactly gone smoothly.
In preparation for the Monday night contest — which pits two 9-1 teams against each other in prime time — the Rams are practicing at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The Rams say this had long been the plan, all so they could get accustomed to the altitude for a game that was originally slated to be played in Mexico City (which is 7,382 feet above sea level). But the poor condition of the playing field at Estadio Azteca — and the players’ significant concern about it — led to plenty of consternation and drama earlier this week, at least until the NFL shifted the contest to the L.A. Coliseum, leaving players on both sides relieved.
“I mean, I saw the pictures of the field, so I wasn’t too shocked,” Rams linebacker Cory Littleton said.
There were reports that the Rams, who were already in Colorado Springs, would relocate this week’s practices back to their training facility at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. The club opted to stay in Colorado Springs while the ongoing wildfire back home — which are burning near their practice facility, forcing many Rams players and staffers to evacuate their homes last week — are being tended to.
“With all the things going on right now, I think there’s some guys that, at the time, wouldn’t have been able to get back into their houses,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
All of this has created a sense of upheaval that isn’t ideal before a game of this magnitude.
“It’s kind of hard,” Gurley said. “When you take trips like this, it kind of throws everything off. You kind of get out of your weekly routine.”
Gurley and the Rams are taking a positive approach to it all, it appears.
“A lot of us had to evacuate our own homes [because of the wildfire], so just to be away from that and be with your brothers and your coaches and be locked in, trying to prepare for a big game, is definitely good,” star defensive tackle Aaron Donald said.
Receiver Brandin Cooks took it a step further.
“We’re fortunate to be here,” said Cooks, who was evacuated from his home. “But you think back on your families back home and people going through that, you wish you could be there for them.
The Rams’ accommodations in Colorado Springs have passed muster, as McVay noted that the Broadmoor, the luxury hotel they’ve been holding meetings at, has done an excellent job rolling out the red carpet. This has only added to the appeal of the picturesque city, which is situated near the base of the southern Rocky Mountains.
“What a beautiful place,” McVay said. “You can just appreciate – it’s just the fresh air, the amenities that this thing has … we’re in the midst of game planning and things like that, but I know our players have enjoyed it. I think it’s been a great getaway for the team to be together and kind of bond.”
A group of players got together Tuesday to see the NBA’s Denver Nuggets face the Houston Rockets.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” Gurley said. “[We’ve] been having a good time team bonding.”
Still, this remains a work trip, and players say McVay has repeatedly harped on the importance of staying focused amid the chaos. He has done his part by keeping their practice routine the same, and Cooks noted that players have been locked into the task at hand this week.
“Communication throughout our meeting rooms and during walkthroughs was at a high level, just because we’ve been moving around [so much],” Cooks said. “Not being able to practice when you’re doing walkthroughs, it’s a little different because you’re not full speed. So the communication factor above the neck is a lot more important.”
It also hasn’t been lost on the Rams that for all the drama about the turf in Mexico City, it led to the game of the year being shifted from a neutral site to a true home contest.
And considering the way the Coliseum figures to be rocking Monday night — it’s the venue’s first Monday night game since 1979 — it’s hard for players to be upset about the way the field drama unfolded … increased ticket requests and all.
“Definitely looking forward to it,” Gurley said. “Like I said, it’s the big stage. Going to be a good crowd for sure.”
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