Rams expect Aaron Donald at minicamp despite retirement talk

THOUSAND OAKS — When Aaron Donald talks, the Rams listen. But they don’t freak out about everything he says.

The Rams defensive tackle’s comments this week, suggesting retirement remains an option as he tries to negotiate a new contract, might have left fans worried.

Donald, speaking with former NFL players Brandon Marshall, Adam “Pacman” Jones and LeSean McCoy on the “I Am Athlete” podcast, said he’d like a chance to repeat the feeling of winning the Super Bowl last season but “we’ve got to handle the business side of things.”

“If I can win another one, that’s great. But if not, I’m at peace,” Donald said of his career.

But Rams coach Sean McVay, talking with reporters on Wednesday, downplayed the significance of what Donald said.

“That’s not any new information,” McVay said on the Rams’ second-to-last day of organized team activities (OTAs), adding that negotiations are “trending in the right direction.”

“Like I’ve said, we’ve had great dialogue,” McVay said. “The goal all along has been to try to get this thing figured out. But also like I’ve said, if there’s anybody that’s earned the right to make the decision on their own terms, after what he’s done, what he’s meant to me and to our team, it’s Aaron.

“The goal is to try and figure out how to get a contract done that he feels good about and we feel good about, and have him continue to do his thing for the Rams.”

Donald, 31, has earned a league record-tying three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and a franchise-record seven All-Pro honors in eight seasons with the Rams. His 98 regular-season sacks are the most by any player who entered the league in 2014 or later. He could easily have been named Super Bowl LVI MVP after sacking Joe Burrow twice and pressuring the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback into a game-ending incompletion (the prize went to Cooper Kupp).

By those standards, Donald might be underpaid even under his current six-year, $135 million contract, which runs through the 2024 season. That deal’s total value and $22.5 million yearly average rank first among defensive tackles. But the total ranks second among defensive players (behind Khalil Mack’s $141 million over six years with the Chargers), and the average ranks sixth.

While it isn’t known what Donald is seeking or what the Rams are willing to pay, it is clear his freedom to retire on the $97.1 million he has earned so far gives him more leverage than the many other stars with whom the team has worked out contract extensions in recent years.

The possibility of their greatest player retiring early has hung over the Rams since before the Super Bowl, when Donald was reported by NBC’s Rodney Harrison to have said he would consider walking away if the Rams won.

His 12½ sacks, 25 quarterback hits, 19 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles – all team highs in the 2021 regular season – and hard-working example to teammates would be irreplaceable.

But Leonard Floyd, the outside linebacker whose 9½ sacks and 18 quarterback hits were second on the team, didn’t sound worried.

“I have no concerns,” Floyd said Wednesday. “I believe in our organization, and I know they’re going to get the job done. We need A.D.

“I’m ready to give him a hug when he gets back.”

Donald skipped training camp in 2017 and 2018 because of contract disputes.

McVay indicated, though, that he expects Donald to travel from his offseason home in his native Pittsburgh to take part in the Rams’ spring workouts for the first time when the team holds mandatory minicamp next week. Earlier, Donald will attend McVay’s wedding to Veronika Khomyn on Saturday.

“That’s the plan right now,” McVay said of Donald participating in minicamp. “I sure hope so, so I don’t have to answer your questions anymore.”


Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner announced he has established a fund to benefit stroke patients at two L.A.-area hospitals that treated his mother Phenia Mae Wagner before she died of complications from a stroke while he was in college, and to promote stroke education at Cedars-Sinai. “The awareness around strokes isn’t talked about enough,” said Wagner, who attended Colony High in Ontario, and Utah State. “Having someone close to me suffer from one, and the after-effects they experience, makes me really want to help other stroke patients get back on their feet. I believe my mom would want me to help. In memory of her, I’m making it my mission to do just that.” …

Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner and his mother Phenia Mae Wagner are pictured at his senior prom at Colony High in Ontario in 2007. Wagner announced May 31, 2022 he has established a fund to benefit L.A.-area stroke victims and promote stroke awareness.
Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner and his mother Phenia Mae Wagner are pictured at his senior prom at Colony High in Ontario in 2007. Wagner announced May 31, 2022 he has established a fund to benefit L.A.-area stroke victims and promote stroke awareness. His mother died while he was in college.

Cornerback Troy Hill was back on the practice field after missing several days of spring workouts. Running back Kyren Williams, a fifth-round draft pick from Notre Dame, left practice with an injury that McVay called “a little something.” Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson has missed team workouts while “spending time with his family,” the coach said. … The Rams wrap up OTAs on Thursday. Their mandatory minicamp is next Tuesday and Wednesday.

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