THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey's life got much simpler and less dramatic when he moved to Hollywood, which makes him a rather unusual celebrity.
But after years of turmoil in Jacksonville, the Pro Bowl cornerback has felt right at home from the first day he joined the Los Angeles Rams nearly a year ago.
Less than a year in town has convinced Ramsey that he wants to finish his career with the Rams. That's why he started to get a little bit antsy about the negotiations earlier this month before the team and his agent finally hammered out their deal.
“It’s hard not to have it in the back of your mind just a little bit, even no matter how much trust you have,” Ramsey said. “As the season got closer to being here, I started to think about it a little bit more, get kind of anxious a little bit. But having it done before the season meant a lot, because now I can truly focus and truly be free.”
Ramsey spoke to the media Friday for the first time since the three-time Pro Bowl selection signed a five-year, $105 million extension with $71.2 million guaranteed Wednesday. The contract will keep Ramsey in Los Angeles through 2025, and he hopes to stay even longer.
“I can’t wait to honestly play here for hopefully the rest of my career,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey is now the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history and a cornerstone of the Rams' defense for the next half-decade alongside defensive tackle Aaron Donald. That's all beautiful to Ramsey, who enjoys being a mature team leader with Los Angeles after an up-and-down tenure with the Jaguars during which he clashed with the coaching staff and the front office.
His relationship with the Rams has been different from the start.
“I felt a lot of respect and trust when they traded what they traded to get me here,” Ramsey said of the trade that cost the Rams two first-round draft picks last October.
“In the offseason, stepping into a role and being more of a leader, it just felt right,” he added. “It's somewhere I really feel comfortable. I love LA, obviously, and everything that comes with it, but this team has been everything that I dreamed of, plus more. I can’t wait to tell my kids one day that I played with the best football player ever, Aaron Donald. Hopefully we can do great things and win a lot of Super Bowls in LA.”
Ramsey FaceTimed his daughters and their mother immediately after signing the deal, but he wanted it to be a surprise for his parents, grandparents and brother, so he let them find out over social media.
Not that it was a real surprise: The Rams showed their commitment to Ramsey simply by trading a big chunk of their draft capital to get him, so letting him go without a huge contract was unthinkable. The Rams still believe they're getting value for their money with one of the NFL's most respected defensive backs locked up through his 31st birthday.
“He came in last year and immediately made an impact with the way he practiced and the way he prepared,” coach Sean McVay said Friday. “Whatever the narratives were before, we haven't seen any of that, and we're glad he's going to be a Ram for a long time.”
Heading into the season opener and the inaugural game at an empty SoFi Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, Ramsey will miss the Los Angeles fans that have embraced him since they greeted him at the airport with signs and cheers on his arrival last October. Until the fans return, he hopes to be a force on a defense that will turn the Rams back into a Super Bowl contender.
“It's been all love, but I can't wait to do even more,” Ramsey said. "Hopefully everything will be back to normal sooner than later. I'm excited for what the future holds.”
NOTES: The Rams are in touch with local government officials and the NFL about the air quality in the Los Angeles area due to the nearby wildfires, but they strongly expect Sunday's game to go on as scheduled. ... RB Darrell Henderson is healthy to play Sunday after missing much of training camp with a hamstring injury, McVay said. The Rams should have all their active players available.
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