Remember last year? Two years ago?
We saw images and videos of defensive tackle Aaron Donald as he trained in Pittsburgh during the offseason — each one seemingly more impressive than the last.
Remember the (fake) knives? Those kinds of workouts that make you say to yourself, "Are you kidding me?"
Donald was in Pittsburgh for all of that, as his representation and the team negotiated a contract extension. And he turned that work into consecutive AP Defensive Player of the Year awards with 31.5 sacks, 40 tackles for loss, and 68 quarterback hits when you combine the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
But this year, Donald is in Southern California at the Rams facility as the team begins its 2019 offseason program — a fairly significant change since the defensive tackle signed his lucrative six-year contract extension last August.
"Fortunately, we don't have to worry about him holding out or anything like that," head coach Sean McVay said Monday.
When Donald and McVay addressed the media on Monday, they had yet to meet to finalize an offseason plan for the 27-year-old star defender. But Donald said he expects to be around for much of the spring — even though it is voluntary.
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams players back in action for the offseason program.
"[I]t is a little bit of a unique situation that's presented itself," McVay said. "But I do think we want to be mindful of, '[We'd] like you to be here, but understanding of some of the other things going on.' So really, that's a conversation that Aaron and I are actually going to have later today and kind of really lay out those things.
"I want to be able to hear — because he's got a plan," McVay continued. "He's so well thought out. He's got some things that have worked for him. I think within the framework of being around your teammates, but also if you're doing some things — you don't worry about Aaron working on his own and getting things done that are all geared towards getting us ready to play football whenever our opener is."
"I have to still talk to coach, but I'm going to be here and probably be back and forth," Donald said. "I'm going to be here — I have to be around my guys and grind with them — but still want to get back in Pittsburgh getting some work, too, so we have to figure things out, but first talking to coach."
Being around his teammates to work with them at this stage of the year — that's something Donald said he's "100 percent" missed the last couple of seasons.
"It feels good to be back at the beginning — a fresh start with the guys — here grinding with the guys on the fields, talking stuff, motivating guys," Donald said. "The D-line got some extra work in the weight room today, so I have an opportunity to be there, work with the younger guys right away, so it's definitely going to help us a lot."
And that "extra work" came at the behest of Donald, according to fellow veteran lineman Michael Brockers.
"It's a good feeling to have him back, hanging out with the guys," Brockers said. "He actually kind of enticed us to do an extra workout today — which is good. I appreciate him for that because he's a great player. And being around guys of his caliber — the great ones — who are always thinking about getting better each and every second of the day, you kind of feed off that. So I respect him and I appreciate him for that."
Really, that's the epitome of Donald's persona. And him being around L.A. over the next couple months and setting high goals for himself should make the Rams better as a whole.
"Just trying to get stronger, get in better shape, trying to fine tune things like that. Anything I can do that my strength coach tells me, 'Try this' — I'm going to try it," Donald said of his training plans for the next few months. "You never know, I might bring the knives back out a little later. So just working, try to find ways to improve my game so I can do more, get better, and not let myself get satisfied."