During and after the season, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said that sitting out training camp helped his body remain fresh all the way through a playoff game.
Donald still had a bounce in his step Thursday as he traversed radio row in the Mall of America while doing promotional work for Gatorade in the run-up to the Super Bowl.
"I wish I was here playing," he said, "but it's all good."
Donald, who had 11 sacks in 14 games, is regarded as a candidate for defensive player of the year. Despite sitting out offseason workouts and training camp because of a contract dispute, he played a huge role in the Rams' run to the NFC West title and their first playoff appearance since 2004.
Donald said the Rams could "for sure" take another step and advance to the Super Bowl in coming seasons under coach Sean McVay.
"We can do it," he said. "We got the players around, the coaches around us now, so we'll be back for sure."
Donald, 26, is scheduled to make about $6.9 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract. He is believed to be seeking a new deal that would not only make him the NFL's highest-paid defensive player, but put him in the salary realm of what quarterbacks command.
In 2016, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox signed a six-year, $102-million contract that will pay him $17.9 million next season.
Asked this week if players such as Donald and Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack should be paid like quarterbacks, many of whom have salary-cap numbers of more than $20-million, Cox said yes.
"Those guys will get paid good money," Cox said. "Obviously both those guys are incredible, and every good team has a D-lineman that's going to make a lot of money.
"Aaron and Khalil, those guys deserve it. They've proven and shown that they deserve that quarterback money."
Apprised of Cox's comments, Donald grinned broadly.
"That's my man," he said. "That's my main man."
As he did throughout the season, Donald deflected questions about negotiations, saying he would leave it to his agents.