IRVINE, Calif. – The youthful lean of this Rams roster has each player with a mindset of something to prove.
Yes, that even includes three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
The Los Angeles defensive lineman not only welcomes the chance to lead a young position group, but is also just has motivated to prove himself.
"I've got a lot to prove," Donald said. "I didn't have the season I wanted, obviously coming off of an injury and things like that. I feel like to get to where you need to be, it's like starting over from scratch again. It's a brand new year. Last year was last year, but there's a little fire lit into me. I got a little motivation towards that to push me to feel like I'm back on ground one. So I'm trying to get back to where I want to be as a player, as a teammate, as a team overall, and that's been kind of pushing me a little bit."
Donald had ankle surgery earlier this offseason to repair the high ankle sprain he suffered against the Chiefs in Week 12 last season that sidelined him the rest of the year. It was the first time he would miss games due to injury in his career.
"It's the first time I ever got injured, so it's different," Donald said. "This offseason I made sure that I was healthy. I made sure I was able to do all the cutting I needed to do. I didn't want to be limited to anything. I feel good, I feel normal. It's just more I haven't played football in a while so it's just reaction things, little things that you pick up from just playing the game and it's coming back. I felt better today than I did yesterday and the day before, so it's getting to where it needs to be."
The Rams are making the most of a healthy Donald accordingly.
While they are rotating a lot on the defensive line of course, they are also doing so on the offensive line, and sliding protection to him to make things more challenging. Donald said he hasn't faced this much slide protection in training camp practices in his career before, and that it's typically just one-on-one matchups.
Still, it's beneficial for him because it will better prepare him for what's to come this season.
"So Sean gave me a lot of double and triple teams," Donald said. "It's realistic right now so me just trying to find ways to defeat that and obviously working with other guys with different games and things like that to trying to play off it. So right now, it is about two, three guys on me, so it's what I expect on the season so I'm getting it now. So just getting the work that I need and trying to find ways to get everything going. Everybody clicking on the same page and trying to find ways to be successful."
Donald admitted it's a different experience working with a much younger defensive line room, compared to the days of having teammates like Michael Brockers and A'Shawn Robinson. The early impressions of those newcomers, though, are promising. Donald praised rookie defensive tackle Kobie Turner for being a smart player who understands the schemes, and feels confident with Turner being out there from the knowledge Turner has absorbed.
Donald is ready to put in the work to help Turner and the other young defensive linemen enjoy the same success and confidence.
"You miss those guys definitely when you had so much success with them and you've been working on them so long," Donald said. "But now obviously it's a new chapter for the next young guys to come up and you're trying to build that bond, that relationship with them. So come game time, you want that same feel, that same confidence when they are next to you that they're going to do their job and they're going to help do what we need to do to be successful as a team. But again, that's what camp is for. It's a process, a different process than what I'm used to but I'm willing to put the work in."