INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — With the Super Bowl just one month away, preparations are in full swing for the return of the NFL's premier event to the place where it all started.
And both NFL officials and local organizers say the championship game isn't leaving the Los Angeles area.
The NFL has no plans to move the Super Bowl to Arlington, Texas, or anywhere else despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the accompanying health precautions in California, several officials confirmed Thursday at SoFi Stadium during a media event held to mark one month before the 56th edition of the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.
“All of our plans for Super Bowl week remain fully in place for a month from today,” said Katie Keenan, the NFL's senior director of event operations. “We’re working along with everyone here, with the LA County Health Department, to make sure all of our events are being held safely.”
The first Super Bowl was held at the Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles in January 1967. The 56th edition will be held for the first time at Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke's 2-year-old stadium, which opened in the summer of 2020 just south of Los Angeles with a unique indoor-outdoor design that includes both a translucent roof and significant air flow from the open ends above the low-slung bowl.
A media fuss was raised earlier this month when the NFL explored the feasibility of using the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium as a backup site for the Super Bowl, ostensibly in case coronavirus rules in California were to prevent the league from staging a Super Bowl here.
The NFL immediately confirmed that it finds backup sites for the Super Bowl every year, and it had no serious concerns about its ability to hold the game in Inglewood.
Several California universities have sharply limited fan attendance at indoor sporting events in January after a series of coronavirus-related postponements. But those decisions were made by the universities rather than by state mandate, and Southern California's professional sports teams haven't followed suit, with the Rams and Chargers welcoming full houses in January.
Kevin Demoff, the Rams' chief operating officer, noted that SoFi has had extensive coronavirus safety protocols in place for all 17 regular-season games played at the stadium by the Rams and the Chargers. Those precautions are still in place Monday night for the first playoff game in the stadium's history when the fourth-seeded Rams (12-5) host the Arizona Cardinals (11-6).
“I don’t think anybody has ever wavered on being able to play this game here and play it safely,” Demoff said. “We've had an amazing, safe environment all year. We are fortunate this is an outdoor facility where the air gets in. We feel this building is very safe. People who come to our games have learned to be safe, and we are doing everything we can to be safe.”
Big Board: The top 50 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft
1. Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame, Jr.
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon, Jr.
3. Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan, Sr.
4. Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU, Jr.
5. George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue, Jr.
6. Evan Neal, OT, Alabama, Jr.
7. Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah, Sr.
8. Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State, So.
9. Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa, Jr.
10. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati, Jr.
11. Drake London, WR, USC, Jr.
London led the nation in contested catches with 19 and he only played eight games after his season ended with a broken ankle. His size, athleticism, route-running and flair for the spectacular catch will make him a problem for defensive coordinators in the NFL.
12. David Ojabo, Edge, Michigan, Jr.
After playing only 26 snaps for the Wolverines before his junior year, Ojabo has been a revelation this season with 11 sacks and five forced fumbles.
13. Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama, Jr.
Williams is a home run hitter with game-breaking speed. He's also a weapon on special teams, as a returner — he returned two kicks for touchdowns in 2021 — and in coverage. The dynamic receiver injured his left knee against Georgia and will have an MRI to determine the severity.
14. Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi St., So.
Cross is a powerful blocker who can do damage at the second level in the run game with premium athleticism and his target-lock awareness. He developed into a dominant pass protector this season and could end up cracking the top-10 in April.
15. Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida, Jr.
16. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss, Jr.
Corral is slightly undersized, but he's an NFL-caliber playmaker with genuine arm talent. His X-rays were negative after he injured his ankle in a loss to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
17. Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia, Sr.
At 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, the Outland and Bednarik trophy winner is an immovable object who could anchor a run defense for years to come.
18. Chris Olave, WR, Ohio St., Sr.
It's rare you find a route technician with reliable hands who can also run this fast. Olave might have snuck into the first round had he left school last year and it wouldn't surprise me if he cracks the top-20 in April.
19. Nik Bonitto, Edge, Oklahoma, Jr.
Bonitto is slightly undersized for an edge defender, but he's a dynamic pass rusher and relentless in his pursuit of running backs.
20. Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn St., Sr.
21. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia, Jr.
The Butkus Award winner is a dynamic blitzer who is capable of making plays all over the field.
22. Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington, Jr.
McDuffie plays bigger than his 5-11 frame. He's one of the surest tacklers at the position in this draft class and his instincts are elite.
23. Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio St., Jr.
Wilson can threaten a defense at every level, but will need to improve against physical press corners.
24. Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn St., Sr.
Brisker is a polished, physical playmaker with few holes in his game.
25. Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida St., Sr.
26. Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky, Sr.
Kinnard is a mauler who happens to be a gifted athlete as well. You won't find many 6-foot-5, 345 pounders who move and change direction like him.
27. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn, Sr.
McCreary simply doesn't allow much separation and he's battle-tested out of the SEC. He's capable of thriving in man and zone.
28. Travon Walker, Edge, Georgia, Jr.
Walker offers premium versatility and immense power. He is an elite run defender, but will need to sharpen his technique to become a more consistent pass rusher.
29. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas, Jr.
You're not going to find a better combination of size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and speed at wide receiver in this class. Burks is a vertical threat, but also features immense YAC ability — he broke 15 tackles on 66 receptions this season.
30. Jordan Battle, S, Alabama, Jr.
31. Kenyon Green, OL, Texas A&M, Jr.
This former five-star recruit can play either guard or tackle at a high level — Green made starts at every single offensive line position except center this season.
32. David Bell, WR Purdue, Jr.
Bell's route-running is advanced and his YAC ability should make him an impact player early in his career.
33. Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh, Sr.
The Heisman finalist is most dangerous outside of the pocket when he goes off script. Pickett has good size, overall athleticism and solid arm talent, but needs to work on his anticipation throws and his comfort within the pocket.
34. Cameron Thomas, Edge, San Diego St., Jr.
Thomas was the most dominant pass rusher in college football this side of Ann Arbor. He racked up an FBS-leading 77 pressures this season and finished sixth with 29 run stops, according to Pro Football Focus.
35. Brandon Smith, LB, Penn St., Jr.
36. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan St., Jr.
The Walter Camp National Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award winner features legit home run speed, but doesn't shy away from contact either. He led all of college football with 89 broken tackles this past season, according to Pro Football Focus. Walker will need to develop as a pass protector to maximize his potential.
37. Drake Jackson, Edge, USC, Jr.
Jackson can play in space or rush the passer off the edge. He has another level that could be unlocked with NFL weight training and coaching.
38. Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia, Sr.
Kendrick was a three-year starter for Clemson before transferring to Athens. He's an asset against the run and thrives in man or zone coverage. Kendrick is vulnerable to receivers with top-end speed, but who isn't?
39. Zion Johnson, OL, Boston College, Sr.
This team captain has thrived at left tackle and guard, but he projects as an impact interior lineman in the NFL.
40. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa St., Jr.
41. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington, Jr.
Gordon is an aggressive, uber-athlete who showed significant development in his technique this season.
42. DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M, Jr.
Leal features inside-outside versatility and explosiveness, but will need to work on becoming an asset against the run after not taking a step forward his junior season.
43. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina, Jr.
Howell possesses impressive arm talent and proved he is a legitimate threat as a runner this season despite failing to meet big expectations.
44. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado St., Sr.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end had a highly-productive senior season — 1,121 yards on 90 receptions — and showcased significant blocking prowess along the way.
45. Bernhard Raimann, OT, Central Michigan, Sr.
46. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson, Jr.
Booth's ball skills enable him to thrive while playing in press or off coverage. He exhibits physicality in defending the run, but needs to sharpen his tackling technique.
47. Daxton Hill, S, Michigan, Jr.
Hill features a mix of athleticism, intelligence and instincts that will enable him to play every position in the defensive backfield. He will need to tamp down his tendency to gamble.
48. Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati, Jr.
Sanders features great speed and explosiveness off the edge to enter the league as a designated pass rusher. He'll need to add some muscle and finetune his focus to become an impact run defender.
49. Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota, Sr.
Faalele achored one of the best offensive lines in the nation this season. He's a massive man — 6-foot-9, 379 pounds — who is relatively new to the sport. He grew up playing basketball and rugby in Australia. He learned football in 2016 so there's a lot of clay to mold.