THOUSAND OAKS — To know how well he fits with the Rams, Robert Woods doesn’t have to look back any farther than last week.
That’s when the Rams showed their appreciation by signing Woods to a new contract that makes him one of the NFL’s 10 best-paid wide receivers and keeps him with the team well into his 30s.
But to really grasp how good he has it these days, he must look all the way back to Buffalo.
That’s where Woods began his professional career, a multi-talented receiver, ballcarrier and run-blocker frustrated in a plodding Bills offense, an L.A. native and USC alum adjusting to the bourgeois world of an upstate New York town.
“I was just going to The Cheesecake Factory. That was our spot,” Woods said of Buffalo’s gourmet high points.
The subject of Buffalo came up this week because the Rams (2-0) and Woods will be there Sunday to face the Bills (2-0) and their tough defense.
Up front, Woods made as clear as ice that he ended up enjoying Buffalo, so much that it “feels like another home for me.”
“Being from L.A., going to USC, I never got to experience another city, especially another weather climate like that,” said Woods, 28, who grew up in Gardena and went to Serra High.
“So going to Buffalo, being in the snow, seeing the football culture there, I loved it. (They’re) real, true, loyal fans. If you’re not wearing Bills gear in the city, they look at you funny.”
He talked about how the Bills fans’ postgame tailgate parties were different from, say, Rams fans’.
“The fans would be going crazy, where there’s ketchup and mustard, wrestling moves, body slams. Everything you can think of was going on,” Woods said. “That’s the type of energy they bring to a game.”
That’s just a colorful illustration of the different football atmospheres in the NFL’s second-smallest market (Buffalo, behind Green Bay) and second-biggest (Los Angeles, behind New York).
“In Buffalo, there only is Buffalo, so all the attention is on you,” Woods said. “In L.A. right now, you see the Dodgers just clinched the NL West, playing for a championship. The Lakers are playing for a championship. We’re competing now for our own championship.
“You’ve got to play at a high level to compete with the best.”
He laughed at his first football memory in Buffalo, a catch in the right corner of the end zone on an 18-yard pass from E.J. Manuel late in the first half of the second-round draft pick’s NFL debut against the New England Patriots in 2013.
“I had no idea for a celebration,” Woods said. “I just screamed.”
The Bills lost that game and nine more that season, and never made the playoffs in Woods’ four years in Buffalo, always ranking in the bottom half of passing offenses with quarterbacks in their first seasons as starters (Manuel, Thaddeus Lewis, Tyrod Taylor) or their last (Kyle Orton).
Now you begin to see why the novelty of snow wasn’t enough to keep Woods from signing with the Rams as a free agent in 2017 when rookie coach Sean McVay began building his passing offense around quarterback Jared Goff.
Asked how much more of his talent he is able to show in L.A., Woods thought back and said, “a whole lot.”
“Just being able to get the ball in space, get the ball a lot more frequently, being able to be comfortable and make guys miss,” he said. “I found myself open a lot (in Buffalo). But coming to the Rams, the ball was able to find me.”
Just beginning his fourth year with the Rams, he has topped his receiving production over four years in Buffalo in catches (240-203), yards (3,253-2,451) and touchdowns (13-12), and been used as a ballcarrier more (42 carries, 317 yards, three touchdowns vs. four carries, 22 yards, no touchdowns).
In his top seasons in Buffalo, he caught passes for more than 600 yards. In the past two years in L.A., he went for 1,219 and 1,134. He leads Rams receivers after two games with 152 yards from scrimmage, 12 more than Cooper Kupp.
That reflects how well Woods works within the Rams’ system, offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said Thursday.
“He’s not a guy, to have production, that needs to have his number called every single time or called early in the game to get him into a rhythm,” O’Connell said.
“He shows up at the stadium ready to roll. I credit Sean and his staff for putting him in good situations, but I also credit that he’s a really good football player.”
Sunday, Woods will see where he started an NFL career that, last Friday, landed him a four-year, $65 million contract extension through the 2025 season.
“It feels good going back,” Woods said this week.
But maybe only with the visiting team.
Left guard Joe Noteboom (calf strain) officially went on injured reserve Thursday. Linebacker Natrez Patrick was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster. Guard Jeremiah Kolone, who was waived Sept. 4, was signed to the practice squad. …
Running back Cam Akers missed a second day of practice after suffering separated rib cartilage in the Rams’ win at Philadelphia on Sunday. “He’s coming along, maybe a little slower than I expected,” coach Sean McVay said. “We’ll see where he is (Friday).” …
Running back Malcolm Brown returned to practice with a splint on his left pinky, which he fractured late in the Eagles game. …
Linebacker Terrell Lewis, on the non-football injury list with a knee issue, is eligible to return next week. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, on that list with a medical issue, is practicing but can’t be activated until Week 9. …
Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, asked how he hopes to contain Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald: “Maybe he can miss the bus.” Donald joked back: “I wish people would not worry about me and just let me play. You ain’t gotta slide, you don’t gotta double-team me, you don’t gotta do nothing. Let’s all play football fair, just one on one.” …
The Rams’ Super Bowl odds have plummeted after their 2-0 start. The British odds aggregator OddsChecker.com has them at 23-1, down from 50-1 in the preseason. The Rams are 2 1/2-point underdogs to Buffalo.