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Home / Chargers

Rams, Chargers to play at SoFi Stadium in preseason opener

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay will be taking a “very different” approach to playing veterans when the team opens preseason play Saturday against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.

McVay has not played starters or other key players in preseason games in recent years in an attempt to avoid injuries, preferring instead to attempt “to create competitive situations, get as many joint practices as we can so that we can mimic and emulate game-like situations while minimizing the risk of injury.”

While McVay did not provide specifics, he did say, “there’s going to be a lot of guys that are playing and very few guys that won’t.”

“We’ve got to get guys ready to go,” he added.

That won’t include quarterback Matthew Stafford or perennial All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald, McVay said.

“The guys that have been big contributors that have played a lot of snaps, we’ll tilt towards being smart with them,” McVay said.

Either Brett Rypien or rookie Stetson Bennett will start at quarterback in the 6 p.m. game that will be televised by ABC7 and CBS2, McVay said.

Rypien is a five-year veteran who signed with the Rams on May 4 after playing in eight games for the Denver Broncos from 2020-22, including two starts, completing 80 of 130 passes for 778 yards and four touchdowns with eight interceptions.

He is a nephew of Mark Rypien, the MVP of the Washington Redskins’ 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI in 1992.

The Rams chose the 25-year-old Bennett in the fourth round of the NFL draft, the 128th overall selection. The Rams acquired the pick one day earlier in a trade with the New York Giants.

Bennett completed his college career by quarterbacking the Georgia Bulldogs to 17 consecutive victories, including a 65-7 victory over TCU in the College Football Playoff title game Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium, where he threw four touchdown passes and ran for two more scores and was selected offensive player of the game.

Bennett began a six-season college career as a walk-on at Georgia in 2017 and did not play in a game. He transferred to Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi for the 2018 season. He returned to Georgia for the 2019 season, became the starter on a permanent basis following an injury to former USC quarterback JT Daniels in the 2021 opener and kept the job for the rest of his college career.

Rams general manager Les Snead said the draft choice in part stemmed from Georgia’s strong offensive line.

“Georgia has got a good offensive line so anytime you’d go to watch defenders in the SEC you’d go, ‘Oh, let’s watch Georgia. They’re the best team. They’ve got a good offensive line and it was interesting,'” Snead said.

“You just come away going, ‘Wow, I thought people said that guy was just maybe, whatever kind of manage the game-type QB,’ but what you did is you just go, ‘Whoa wait a minute. Look at that guy move. Look at him buy some time. Look at him anticipate some throws.’

“And just you come away thinking, ‘Wow, he was a weapon for Georgia.’ And I made a joke internally that he’s got a bad PR agent because his image is not maybe being, let’s call it a talented player, was probably a little false.”

Because of Bennett’s “journey, people take for granted that this guy is just a really good football player,” McVay said.

“Because of the background and the way that he became the starter at Georgia is a little bit unconventional and it wasn’t the five-star route, but I think it minimized the athleticism, the ability to create off-schedule,” McVay said.

“He’s a natural thrower of the football. He can play with great anticipation, throws the ball with accuracy, plays within the timing. He’s around great players, but he elevated those guys. He sees the field well. You can seize processing things quickly and he’s a lot better athlete than people give him credit for.

“And I think there’s an edge to him that’s a positive. You want some competitors that have some stuff to him that things don’t always go well, they’re unfazed and they can kind of move on and be able to reset themselves.”

Coincidentally, Max Duggan, TCU’s quarterback in that championship game, will play Saturday for the Chargers, who chose him in the seventh round of the draft with the 239th overall selection, coach Brandon Staley said.

With starter Justin Herbert getting the night off, Easton Stick, who has thrown one pass for four yards in the regular season since the Chargers selected him in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, will play “a healthy amount,” Staley said.

“I’m really looking forward to Easton playing a lot in the preseason and getting to show what he can do,” Staley said. “He has had an excellent camp. I think that you can see the improvement. All three years that we’ve been with him he has improved as a player. He’s going to be a really steady presence for those guys on gameday on Saturday night.”

Parking lots will open at 2 p.m. and stadium gates at 4 p.m. Traffic around the stadium may be heavier than normal during entry due a concert by Drake at the adjacent Forum set to begin at 8 p.m.

“Play Football” will be the gameday theme, featuring pregame youth and celebrity and influencer flag football games before the gates open. At halftime, celebrities will compete in a football skills challenge, including a field goal kick, quarterback toss and 40-yard dash.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will conduct five-minute hands-only CPR trainings in Heart Heroes pop-up tent in American Airlines Plaza from 4 p.m. through kickoff, part of the Los Angeles County Heart Heroes campaign to train 500,000 Los Angeles County residents and workers in hands-only CPR by Dec. 31.

The Latin-inspired musical group Mariachi Rams will perform on the performance stage on Level 3 on the north end of the stadium at approximately 5 p.m. and during the first and third quarters.

Motivational speaker and food reviewer Michael Grice will sing the national anthem.

Cedric the Entertainer will be the rampede captain, rallying fans to rise with the Rams and lead the “Whose house, Rams house” chant on the field at 6 p.m.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Joe Perera will be honored as the military hero of the game. Perera enlisted in 1998, has been deployed to Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. He has received the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and a combat action ribbon.

The Ferris wheel at Pacific Park in Santa Monica will highlight the Rams and Chargers with a display of team colors and icons to celebrate the game.

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