- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2016

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - Jared Goff will take the field with the Los Angeles Rams in his native Bay Area on Monday night for the first regular-season game of the No. 1 draft pick’s rookie year.

And then Goff is almost certainly going to watch it in street clothes on the sidelines, clipboard in hand.

It’s not exactly the heroic homecoming many imagined for Goff when the Rams traded up to snag the California quarterback less than five months ago. Yet Goff and Rams coach Jeff Fisher both insist his current status as Los Angeles’ third-string quarterback is all part of a bigger, better plan.

“He wants to play, and I want him to play,” Fisher said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Case Keenum is the Rams’ starting quarterback when they open the season against the San Francisco 49ers, comfortably keeping the job he held when last season ended in St. Louis.

Sean Mannion, another Bay Area native with only seven passes of NFL experience, is Keenum’s backup. Goff is expected to be inactive for the game, and punter Johnny Hekker is expected to be the Rams’ emergency third-string quarterback.

The No. 1 pick is being diplomatic about the decision, although he doesn’t exactly try to hide his competitive edge.

“I don’t know if it’s for one thing in particular, but it’s just what they decided to do this week,” Goff said. “I know there’s plan in place, and I know this is all a part of it. There’s a process. You’re just going to trust the process and know that it’s all going to work out.”

Goff also realizes he’ll be watching the Rams’ opener while Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick last spring, starts for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have enough confidence in their rookie to trade Sam Bradford to Minnesota.

“We have the same agent, so we talked about it,” Goff said. “I’m excited for him, excited to see what he can do.”

Keenum firmly kept hold of the Rams’ starting job throughout Goff’s first offseason. Goff went just 22 for 49 in four preseason appearances, throwing two touchdown passes and two interceptions for the offense that finished 32nd in the NFL last season.

While Goff has shown flashes of the game-breaking excellence that got him to the top of most teams’ draft boards, he clearly hasn’t seized the job - and he acknowledges he still has plenty to learn.

Even taking snaps from center is a learning process for Goff, who spent his three-year Cal career almost exclusively in the shotgun. He even fumbled a shotgun snap in the Rams’ preseason finale at Minnesota, committing a turnover that led to a field goal.

After being a starting quarterback throughout high school and college, Goff now must get used to life as a backup. Although the Rams are highly unlikely to neglect him, Goff acknowledges the challenge of trying to get better when two other quarterbacks are getting more attention and playing time in practice.

“My whole life, I’ve been the starter, so I’m used to taking those reps,” Goff said. “Through OTAs and through training camp, I’ve learned to take mental reps and watch Case and Sean, and see what they do well and try to replicate that.”

Fisher also realizes the difficulties of learning a job without practice time, but the Rams are wedded to Goff’s success through everything they gave up to get him. Goff still could become the Rams’ starter through injury or ineffectiveness by Keenum, who will be a free agent after this season.

But that won’t change Monday night’s opener. Goff will have family and friends in the Santa Clara stands, but the Marin County product won’t be able to show them anything just yet. He hides his disappointment behind a laugh.

“I’ll play in San Francisco more than once,” Goff said. “So no, I’ll be OK.”

___

Online:

AP NFL website: https://www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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