INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay playfully used the jubilation of Wednesday's Super Bowl parade to coax the NFL's best defensive player out of potential retirement, however faint those thoughts might have been in the first place.
On a makeshift stage in front of the L.A. Coliseum, with the Olympic torch lit and thousands of fans gathered in anticipation, McVay gestured to Aaron Donald just as the Rams defensive tackle was wrapping up a short speech.
"Aaron -- Sean McVay just tapped me on the shoulder," emcee J.B. Long announced. "He wanted to know if you were interested in running it back."
Then McVay began a not-so-subtle chant.
Run it back! Run it back! Run it back!
"We built a super team, we can bring the super team back," Donald said, igniting boisterous cheers, most notably from McVay. "Why not run it back? We can be world champs again!"
That moment seemed to quell concerns that McVay, the 36-year-old head coach who has reached two Super Bowls in five seasons, and Donald, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time All-Pro heading into his age-31 season, would suddenly retire after the championship-winning 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night.
Both recently left that possibility open. McVay, who spoke introspectively about eventually attaining a healthier work-life balance in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, responded to a question on Monday about returning in 2022 with, "We'll see." On Wednesday night, however, McVay's fiancée, Veronika Khomyn, put to rest any speculation that the 36-year-old coach wouldn't be back next season, posting a photo of McVay to her Instagram story with the caption, "And no. He is NOT retiring!!!"
As for Donald, prior to Sunday's game, former NFL safety and current NBC analyst Rodney Harrison stated that there's "a strong possibility" Donald retires if the Rams win the Super Bowl, even though three years remain on his contract.
Donald was noncommittal on Sunday night, but his comments on stage less than 72 hours later seemed to reveal that he would return. McVay didn't address the issue himself, but his actions apparently spoke volumes.
"You saw Sean on stage today," Rams COO Kevin Demoff said. "He's ready to go defend our title."
"Did they say it?" Rams general manager Les Snead playfully asked when questioned about McVay and Donald returning. "You know what, I trust it."
Rams players, coaches and executives filled four double-decker buses on a 1.1-mile parade route that began at the Shrine Auditorium and winded down Figueroa Street before reaching the Coliseum, a place that has hosted the Rams for nearly 40 years (including their first four seasons back in L.A., from 2016 to 2019). The Rams are the third major L.A. sports team to win a championship in a span of 16 months, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Lakers were denied a parade because of COVID-19 restrictions.
"Run it back" quickly became a theme by the Rams' players onstage, a phrase also uttered by the dynamic receiving duo of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Andrew Whitworth, the 40-year-old left tackle who won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, was non-committal about returning, saying: "We'll save that conversation for another day."
But Von Miller, a 32-year-old Pro Bowl linebacker who is venturing into free agency, was not.
"Von -- Sean wants to know if you're interested in running it back," Long said while Miller stood in front of the microphone.
"Man," Miller said, "we ain't going nowhere."