The Rams’ mandatory minicamp began on Tuesday and there was one notable absence: defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Following the day’s practice, head coach Sean McVay said he expected Donald to stay away as the club and the defensive tackle’s representation continue to negotiate a contract extension.
“When I spoke with him last week, I said, ‘If there’s not a solution to this by next week, will you be here?’ He said, ‘I’m going to stay home, continue training,’” McVay said Tuesday afternoon. "He’s in a good place. Would we want him to be here? Yeah, we’d love to have Aaron here. But it’s kind of the same where it’s been — we’re just focusing on the guys who are here.
“But we are also are in constant dialogue with Aaron and his group and would like to come to a solution,” McVay continued. “When that’s going to happen, it’s hard to say. But it is something we want to be proactive about pursuing, kind of similar to what we’ve said all along.”
The potential Donald contract extension has been an ongoing storyline since last season, when Donald elected to remain in his hometown of Pittsburgh for much of the offseason program and all of training camp. Donald was present for last year’s mandatory minicamp, though he only did work on the side. Donald eventually reported to the Rams just before Week 1 last year and played in the Week 2 contest against Washington.
Nevertheless, Donald was named 2017 AP Defensive Player of the Year after recording — among many gaudy stats — 11.0 sacks and five forced fumbles in 14 games.
“I think you’d ideally want him to be here, but I think having been through this already, we at least feel comfortable with how to kind of navigate through this situation and this circumstance,” McVay said. “You want him to be here. And we do certainly value what this offseason program entails and the amount of work and the camaraderie that we feel like is established among the teammates that are here. But Aaron has shown that he was able to have a lot of success not taking part in a lot of this last year.
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t want him here,” McVay added. “But I think there’s at least some comfort in knowing the guys who are here are really working hard. They all respect and appreciate Aaron but we know he’s working back at home as well. But all that being said, we’d love to have our guy ‘99’ here.”
That stance has been previously reflected from Donald’s teammates. As fellow defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh put it during OTAs, “I don’t think there was a problem last year when he missed, I don’t think there will be a problem really simply because every single roster turns over every single year and you really don’t have your guys until you get into camp. When you get into camp things happen unfortunately and you have to adjust and get with the program however it moves left or right. So I don’t think it will be an issue by any means.”
There was a post to Twitter earlier on Tuesday of Donald working out at the Pitt facility, continuing what he’s done all offseason. So, as McVay said, though Donald is not with the club in Southern California, he’s still improving his fitness.
Los Angeles’ minicamp is slated to run through Wednesday, with a special visit to the new Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District on Thursday to conclude the offseason program.