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Rams begin to look ahead after Super Bowl defeat

AP

The Los Angeles Rams have plenty of offseason work to do. Thanks to their run to the Super Bowl, they have a relatively short amount of time to do it.

Sean McVay professes to love few things more than his next challenge, and the coach is already hitting the Rams’ offseason tasks with extra motivation from the humbling experience of Los Angeles’ 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Atlanta.

“If you can’t handle getting gut-punched and responding, this business probably isn’t for you,” a typically energized McVay said Tuesday at the Rams’ training complex. “That’s the only way that I know how to respond as a coach. I know our coaching staff feels that way. I know our players feel that way, and that’s what’s powerful. . . . If things are always easy, you never get a chance to get tested and find out.”

McVay said he isn’t ready for a vacation, and he already has a lengthy to-do list.

The Rams must replace quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, who took over as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday. McVay is heading to the NFL scouting combine in three weeks, and he will play a role in general manager Les Snead’s numerous roster decisions to be made within the compressed timeframe of evaluation before free agency opens next month.

“When you do go this late into the season, which is certainly a blessing, we’re really far behind with a lot of the things that typically take place,” McVay said.

The NFC champions were mostly upbeat while they cleaned out their lockers Tuesday, but the Super Bowl defeat will take weeks to fade.

Andrew Whitworth is contemplating retirement, yet the left tackle was in the Rams’ training complex working out on a bike within hours after the team returned home. Jared Goff had already watched film of the Super Bowl, taking a close look at his offense’s numerous failings.

“It definitely stings,” said Goff, who will have his fourth position coach in four seasons. “It’s hard. You can’t ever really get over it, maybe. It’ll be tough, but it’ll be definitely something that will motivate us, and something that we’ll use. It’s hard saying this when we know, had we won, right now we would probably be in the parade, and how fun that would be, and how many different things go along with winning the Super Bowl. It’s hard to put that in perspective, really, but there was a lot of good things that came out of this season.”

With McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips still leading a roster stacked with elite talent, the Rams appear to have a foundation for a prolonged stretch of championship contention. Veterans of the Rams’ bad old days don’t take this success for granted, even if the ending currently stings.

“This season is a truly great accomplishment by this team,” left guard Rodger Saffold said. “Sean McVay did an unbelievable job being able to turn this team around from a 4-12 team to a 13-3 team with a chance to win the Super Bowl. You can’t ask for anything better than that. It hurts right now, but these guys are resilient. These guys show great poise. I expect everybody to come back and have another victorious season, whether it’s with me or without me.”

With that final phrase, Saffold underlined the uncertain nature of any NFL offseason. The stalwart offensive lineman is among several Rams whose futures are undecided.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge rusher Dante Fowler and safety Lamarcus Joyner all were not available Tuesday to discuss their futures as unrestricted free agents. Veterans with hefty salary cap hits in the upcoming season include defensive tackle Michael Brockers, linebacker Mark Barron and cornerback Marcus Peters.

Suh’s $14 million contract is up, and the 32-year-old veteran gets to choose his career’s direction again after he gambled on the Rams’ prospects for providing his first career playoff success. Aaron Donald wants Suh back next to him, but while Suh appeared to thoroughly enjoy playing in LA, he probably could make bigger money elsewhere.

Fowler improved his stock with solid play after his midseason arrival from Jacksonville. He wants to stay, but could be targeted with multiyear offers due to the valuable nature of his position.

Joyner played this season on the franchise tag, and the Rams’ hesitance to give him a top-dollar, multiyear deal could be foreshadowing.

Cornerback Sam Shields played in every game after missing the past two seasons while recovering from repeated concussions. Shields said he “most definitely” wants to play football again next season.

“I beat all odds, and I feel like myself again,” Shields said.

Running back C.J. Anderson provided an enormous late-season boost, and the Rams could be interested in keeping him longer than five games. Backup running back Malcolm Brown, whose injury led to Anderson’s arrival, is also a free agent.

“One thing you can say about this team is they’ll be back,” Anderson said. “McVay and some of the key players have the talent to get them over the hump.”