Before and during the season, Rams running back Todd Gurley jokingly lamented about how fantasy football team owners besieged him on social media with commentary about his performances.
He did it again last week after he amassed 276 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns in a victory over the Tennessee Titans that clinched the NFC West and the Rams first playoff appearance since 2004.
“Fantasy owners you’re welcome now leave us alone. Merry Christmas!” Gurley tweeted.
But many of those owners who won their leagues and cash because of Gurley captured his heart by donating portions of their winnings — reportedly more than $10,000 — to Shriners Hospitals for Children in his name.
“That was dope,” Gurley said Thursday, “That was real cool… Just to see that and people caring, that means a lot.”
Gurley leads the NFL with 19 touchdowns and 1,305 yards rushing, but he will not have the opportunity to increase those totals in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers at the Coliseum.
With a playoff game next Saturday or Sunday against an undetermined opponent, Coach Sean McVay has said that Gurley would be among several Rams players — including quarterback Jared Goff — who will rest rather than risk injury against the 49ers.
“It’s cool,” Gurley said. “Obviously, it will be a good advantage just to be able to get a couple days of extra health… so I think it’ll be a good thing.
“But, as far as everything else, my body has been fairly great this season, so thank God.”
McVay’s decision to sit Gurley could cost the third-year pro a chance at the NFL rushing title and, possibly, most valuable player.
Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt has rushed for 1,292 yards, 13 fewer than Gurley. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell trails Gurley by 14 yards. Both play for teams that have already clinched playoff berths, so they also might be held out.
Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy trails Gurley by 177 yards.
Gurley can only watch as the scenarios play out.
“You’ve just got to look at the bigger picture,” he said. “Coach has a plan and he’s done nothing but right things since we’ve been in here, so you’ve got to trust him on this decision as well.”
Gurley’s performances the last two games against the Seattle Seahawks and the Titans have put him at the forefront of conversation for the MVP award, which has been won by a quarterback nine times in the last 10 years. Running back Adrian Peterson, in 2012, was the only player other than a quarterback to win the award.
Could Gurley win MVP over a quarterback such as New England’s Tom Brady?
“Big-time players making big-time plays at those moments when your team needs it the most,” McVay said of Gurley. “That’s all Todd’s really done and for us, he sure is valuable to us.
“That’s what we do know.”
Gurley answered “I don’t know,” when asked if he thought he had done enough to win the MVP award.
“I just try to go out there and try to have the best game of my career every week,” he said, adding, “I’m just thankful to be in the position that I’m in.”
Gurley, who played in college for Georgia, has surpassed the performance he produced in 2015, when he was the NFL offensive rookie of the year.
He spent part of Wednesday at a hotel visiting with Georgia players who are preparing for a College Football Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
“I just love to see young guys being successful and just coming from nothing and being able to accomplish their dreams, whether it’s my guys I know or if it’s guys on Oklahoma,” Gurley said. “Whoever it is, just anybody that makes their dream come true.”
Linebacker Connor Barwin, who did not practice Wednesday, was a full participant Thursday…. Tickets for the Rams’ playoff game next week at the Coliseum go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at TheRams.comPlayoffs.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein