Sports

Los Angeles Rams look ahead to busy offseason knowing they have ‘a place where players want to be’


LOS ANGELES — At around 9 a.m. PT Monday, some 14 hours after the Los Angeles Rams won Super Bowl LVI, Sean McVay posed for pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy and called it an “incredible honor” to be standing at the podium reserved for the game’s winning coach and MVP.

“It’s also torturous to have a team win a championship and then make you come in the next morning, do a press conference this early,” McVay joked.

As Super Bowl champions do, the Rams had partied the previous night away in celebration of their second title in franchise history and their first since they moved back to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016. That celebration will continue with a championship parade on Wednesday that will culminate at the L.A. Coliseum, where the team played before moving into owner Stan Kroenke’s $5 billion SoFi Stadium in 2020.

Then the Rams — represented by McVay, Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp and management Monday at the Los Angeles Convention Center — will shift their focus to all the major obstacles they’ll have to overcome in order to repeat in 2022, a feat that only one NFL team — the New England Patriots in 2004 and ’05 — has pulled off in the last two decades. That may prove especially challenging for the Rams given all the resources they sacrificed while going all in to win in 2021, and now with the recent emergence of questions about two of their most important pieces.

McVay openly pondered his coaching future last week, his comments coming on the heels of sources reiterating to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry that the coach has considered a move to the broadcast booth. The Super Bowl pregame show brought a report from NBC that Aaron Donald might retire if the Rams won, a possibility the star defensive tackle neither confirmed nor denied afterward.

Asked about those situations Monday, Rams COO Kevin Demoff chalked them up to the grind of a long season, projecting an absence of concern.

“You’re talking about 26-27 straight weeks in which these guys had maybe a bye weekend off,” Demoff said. “And you talk about an Aaron who works relentlessly at his craft in the offseason and for Sean, who’s burning the midnight oil, I think all these guys are wiped. And I think when they get to this point, the gas tank is empty. …

“… Someone once told me: The hardest thing about winning the Super Bowl is you wake up the next morning and it’s the next season. It’s over. And to be fair, I think that’s daunting to some degree, when you wake up this morning and you realize, ‘I’ve got to go do it all over again,’ and you don’t have the energy. So I think the talk is actually natural. When you look at someone like Aaron Donald and what he’s accomplished, this was obviously a legacy piece.”

McVay talked on Friday about trying to find an ideal balance between his professional and personal lives as he prepares to get married this summer and eventually start a family.

“I would agree,” Demoff said. “I don’t think Sean’s current pace is sustainable in terms of how much work he puts in, if you want to have a family. … But I think the one thing is, these guys all love football, they love being around each other, they feed off of each other. Sean has said all year: We win with our people and they win together. I think all of those are natural questions that are hard to answer in the moment and speculate. A month away, two months away from everybody, and I think things will feel a lot better.”

Demoff gave nonspecific answers to separate questions about whether the team could give McVay and Donald contract extensions this offseason. McVay’s current deal and that of general manager Les Snead both run through the 2023 season.

“While many, many things have changed over the past five years, we’ve had unbelievable, unwavering leadership from Sean and Les,” Demoff said, “and it goes without saying that we’d like that to continue.”

Donald has three years and $55 million — none of which is guaranteed — remaining on his 2018 extension.

“I’d have to look; I think he’s got a couple years left,” Demoff said of Donald. “The one thing I remember from 2019 is when you get to the Super Bowl, everybody is worthy of having things looked at and be improved, and that year we lost. So certainly when you win, everybody on the team is probably deserving of a raise of merit. I think it goes back to the question of: How do you put together a team that can go compete in 2023 and 2024? And how do you reward the people that deserve to be rewarded? Which is all 53 players and all 20 coaches.”

The Rams face big contract questions with some of the other players that were key to their Super Bowl run, including wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a pending free agent. Beckham’s situation could be further complicated by the knee injury that he suffered late in the first half Sunday, after he scored the game’s first touchdown.

McVay had no update Monday on the injury.

“My heart goes out to him,” he said. “Love Odell. Really grateful for all the many contributions he made. We wouldn’t be champs without him.”

Outside linebacker Von Miller is another marquee player who’s scheduled to become a free agent. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has a $17 million cap number that could put him in danger of being released if he doesn’t retire beforehand. Fellow O-line starters Austin Corbett and Brian Allen are also unsigned beyond 2021.

The Rams are currently over the 2022 salary cap and aren’t projected to pick within the top 100 in April’s draft, having traded their next two first-rounders for quarterback Matthew Stafford, as well as this year’s second- and third-rounders for Miller. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert had the Rams last in a recent ranking of each team’s offseason capital.

“But part of the joy of this group is finding a way to do things that are uncommon,” Demoff said. “That’s what I love about working with Sean and Les and [vice president of football and business administration Tony Pastoors] and with Stan — the impossible becomes possible.

“I’ve seen some charts that show offseason resources and if there’s a bottom of it, we’re like below it, we’re off on the other page. But at the same time, I think we’ll have eight draft picks. We’ll look at the salary cap and what can be done. But the one thing I will say, and this is such a credit to Stan and Sean and Les and the players: This is a place where players want to be. Our own players, other players. And when you see the scenes from last night, this will only make it more desirable to be a Los Angeles Ram. And when you start with that premise, there are a lot of things you can get done to improve your chances to hopefully be back to this press conference next year.”

Another offseason mission for the Rams will be capitalizing on what Demoff called an “amazing opportunity” to build up what remains a lukewarm fan base in Los Angeles, a market that the Dodgers and Lakers have long owned. Demoff reiterated that it won’t happen overnight.

“Obviously, this gives is a leg up to really go build our band, our team, our organization,” he said. “Maybe when you walk into a school, the kids are a little bit more excited to see you. But our work in L.A. is just starting. We’ve had an amazing first six years … but all of that is the table stakes for being a successful franchise here. And I expect us to work just as hard this offseason, work harder to build fans, to go compete, to develop that next generation. That’s going to take a ton of work from everybody.

“But it can probably wait a couple days.”



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