THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald, both of whom are serious contenders for major awards, will not play in Sunday's regular-season finale, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay confirmed after Wednesday's walk-through.
Gurley leads the NFL in scrimmage yards (2,093) and touchdowns (19) and is seemingly competing against Tom Brady for the MVP, an award that has gone to a quarterback after nine of the past 10 seasons.
Donald, who has a career-high-tying 11 sacks, is among those in the running for Defensive Player of the Year, which has been won by four defensive tackles since the sack became an official stat in 1982.
Quarterback Jared Goff, left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan also will not play. Left guard Rodger Saffold and inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, all of whom have been playing through injuries, probably won't play, either. Another potential absentee could be rookie receiver Cooper Kupp, who McVay said has been playing through some knee issues.
Other key veterans, such as defensive end Michael Brockers, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, outside linebackers Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin, safety Lamarcus Joyner and receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, are expected to at least see limited time in Sunday's home game against the San Francisco 49ers, which kicks off at 1:25 p.m. PT.
"I think it's a good decision on our coaching staff's part to get some guys some rest, get some guys healthy," said Goff, who will back up Sean Mannion from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"Everything that we do is intentional and designed to be the best for our team and for our players," McVay said. "I think they understand that. I know sometimes people may not always agree, but when situations like this come up, we talk about it. It's a nice luxury to be able to have, but you want to make sure you handle it the right way for our team."
Win or lose, the Rams (11-4) will host the first round of the playoffs and travel for the second round, likely to face either the Philadelphia Eagles or the Minnesota Vikings. The Rams will finish as the third or fourth seed in the NFC, a difference that didn't outweigh the benefit of keeping key players fresh.
Will it cost Gurley the MVP? Will it cost Donald a chance at Defensive Player of the Year?
Gurley easily leads the NFL in touchdowns and is 147 scrimmage yards ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, who also might not play this weekend. Gurley's 1,305 rushing yards are only 13 ahead of Kareem Hunt's and 14 ahead of Bell's, but Hunt could sit now that the Kansas City Chiefs have locked up the AFC West.
The Brady factor is tricky. The New England Patriots' quarterback leads the NFL in passing yards (4,387) while throwing 30 touchdowns with only eight interceptions, and he will play in the regular-season finale against the New York Jets.
Donald had a sack taken away from him in Sunday's 27-23 division-clinching win over the Tennessee Titans and is currently tied for ninth in that stat.
Donald leads the NFL with a career-high 91 pressures, 12 more than the next closest defender, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, according to Pro Football Focus. But he sits 3.5 sacks behind Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell, a potential favorite for Defensive Player of the Year. Campbell will play on Sunday.
Asked about sitting players who are closing in on performance-based incentives, McVay said: "Certainly you want to make good on those things, where you don't want them to not reach their incentives because of a coach's decision to hold you and get you healthy for the playoffs. We definitely are mindful and aware of those guys that were affected and want to make sure that we take care of that and handle that in a first-class way, and that's exactly what we'll do."