IRVINE — The only people happy about this Aaron Donald contract situation might be the Rams offensive linemen. In the first two days of training camp, they haven’t had to deal with the fierce defensive lineman.
Everyone else is more anxious. Coaches and teammates have been in regular contact with Donald, who is a camp holdout as his agent attempts to negotiate a new deal with the Rams, and fellow defensive lineman Michael Brockers said Donald isn’t kicking back and enjoying his break from football.
“Oh yeah, it’s killing him right now,” Brockers said after Sunday’s camp practice at UC Irvine. “I know it is. He cannot wait until this contract thing is over. … You text him just to check in, and he lets us know that he’s still working and stuff like that. We know he’s not letting off in any way. We know he’s going to come back in shape and be the same Aaron he was before.”
Coach Sean McVay has emphasized this week that the Rams are working to get a deal done with Donald and that, while he’s out, other defensive linemen are improving. That’s true, but none of them are Donald.
There’s no replacing a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has 28 sacks in 48 NFL games. In the Rams’ new 3-4 scheme, Dominique Easley and Ethan Westbrooks have been lining up alongside Brockers, but as the Aug. 12 preseason opener draws near, Donald isn’t getting repetitions in the new defense.
At some point, the Rams need Donald, as they need to learn how to work around the defense’s most dominant force. But the Rams seem convinced that when Donald does return, it will be a seamless fit.
“Mostly you miss his personality, having him around,” Brockers said. “You know what he’s going to do on the field, so you know what you’re getting when he gets back. You just miss his personality during some of these hard practices, where he might make a joke or jump on your back, something to pick us up. That’s what people don’t realize. He brings a lot of personality to the defensive line as well.”
Teammates have been supportive of Donald’s absence. A fan brought a sign to practice with a picture of Donald and the words “pay the man,” and linebacker Robert Quinn signed it.
Brockers is no stranger to this. Last September, a week into the season, Brockers signed a three-year, $33.1 million contract. Brockers had entered the final year of his contract, and while Donald still has two years remaining on his current deal, Brockers said teammates want to see Donald get paid.
“It’s hard to not do that when a guy has put in so much work,” Brockers said. “He has worked so hard and been tremendous for this team. It’s hard not to want that for him. So yeah, we’re right with him and we support him. We’re just waiting for him to get back.”
“Sure,” McVay said. “It’s understandable. I’m asking those guys too. ‘What is going on?’”
McVay then grinned widely and said he had no update on Donald’s contract…