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Rams plan to rest Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald and others in regular-season finale against 49ers

Rams plan to rest Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald and others in regular-season finale against 49ers
Key Rams players, such as Trumaine Johnson (22) and Todd Gurley (30), could spend the entire regular-season finale on the bench. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

He mostly has been kept from harm's way and avoided the beating that he absorbed last season as a rookie.

So Rams quarterback Jared Goff is physically sound and capable of directing the NFL's highest-scoring offense in Sunday's regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers at the Coliseum.

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But with the Rams looking ahead to a playoff game next week, coach Sean McVay on Wednesday made it official: Goff and other key players such as running back Todd Gurley, offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan and defensive lineman Aaron Donald will be among those who will sit out to either rest, heal or avoid injury.

"I think it's a good decision," Goff said.

Sean Mannion will start in place of Goff, but Goff will be active as the backup. Other regulars either will be among seven designated inactive players on game day, or they will be in uniform and not play.

"I know sometimes people might not always agree, but when situations like this come up, we talk about it's a nice luxury to be able to have," McVay said. "But you want to make sure that you handle it the right way for our team.

"It might not be for every team, but we feel like that's the best approach for us."

Goff has passed for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading the Rams to an 11-4 record and their first NFC West title since 2004.

He has been sacked 25 times, one fewer than he was sacked in seven winless starts last season.

Not playing this week, Goff said, would enable him to "get myself back to feeling really good and feeling refreshed," before the playoffs.

"I feel good; I don't feel banged up or anything, but a week off can never hurt, especially this late in the year," Goff said, adding, "This is going to help guys that really take a beating.

"I've been kept pretty clean most of the year and guys like Todd, guys on the defense, guys that really take that beating, the guys up front, it will really help them."

Receivers such as Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp also might be held out or limited as the Rams play a game that could impact their seeding for the NFC playoffs.

The Philadelphia Eagles are seeded No. 1, the Minnesota Vikings No. 2.

If the Rams defeat the 49ers, they will be guaranteed the No. 3 seed. If they lose, they could fall to No. 4.

McVay said this week that he was not concerned about the offense losing its rhythm, pointing to his team's performance in Week 9 after an open date, when the Rams routed the New York Giants 51-17.

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On Wednesday, he acknowledged that his decision to rest starters could affect the players' bottom line.

Many veteran NFL players have contract incentives, be it for yardage gained, touchdowns scored, sacks or any number of other performance-based rewards.

Offensive linemen, for example, often have incentives for being active for every game.

McVay said the Rams would "make good" on taking care of players close to reaching incentives.

"You don't want them to not reach their incentives because of a coaches' decision to hold you and get you healthy for the playoffs," he said. "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."

If all of the Rams' players were participating, the matchup against the 49ers might have served as a preview for what's to come in 2018 and beyond.

The acquisition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has energized a 49ers team that has won four games in a row and five of its last six.

Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers' first-year coach, said he wished that all of the Rams' starters were playing.

"But I totally get why they wouldn't," he said.

Shanahan said he would consider doing the same if the 49ers were in the Rams' position, and that there was no "absolute" answer.

"It can go either way," he said. "You just have to have a feel for your team and what you think your team needs the best. If you rest guys and you lay an egg the next week, everyone will say you made a mistake. If you play guys and you get a serious guy hurt, people will say you made a mistake.

"You really can't tell the future, so you have to go off of your best gut and what you think is right for your team at the moment."

Etc.

Kupp did not participate Wednesday because of a knee injury. McVay said Kupp had been playing through the injury and aggravated it on his fourth-quarter touchdown catch against Tennessee. … The Rams waived linebacker Kasim Edebali and placed safety Marqui Christian on injured reserve. Linebacker Garrett Sickles and offensive lineman Aaron Neary were promoted from the practice squad. Cornerback Taurean Nixon and tight end Henry Krieger-Coble were signed to the practice squad. … Gurley was named the NFC offensive player of the week for the second consecutive week. He is the first running back to win the award in consecutive weeks since the NFL began the award in 1984. … Teammates voted Gurley the Rams' most valuable player, Kupp rookie of the year and Whitworth the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game award winner for the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, ethic and commitment to teammates.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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