THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Actions speak louder than words, so the saying goes. And while Aaron Donald normally leads with the former, he's beginning to use the latter more.
As the Rams gear up for Sunday's NFC Championship game against the 49ers (3:30 p.m. PT, FOX) with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the Rams defensive lineman is speaking up in an effort to further motivate his teammates.
"He talks when he wants to," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. "And when he talks everybody listens, man. The E.F. Hutton deal."
The more vocal approach in part comes from the natural sense of urgency created by this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It's also derived from Donald being challenged to do so by Rams outside linebacker Von Miller.
"I have always considered myself a leader, but more of a lead by example guy," Donald said Thursday. "One thing Von has been challenging me a lot more with is just him talking to me, being more vocal, talking to the guys, letting them hear my voice. Having Von and having him speak to me and talk to me, I feel like some of the best things I'm learning from Von is being more of a vocal leader."
Donald has preached a message one would expect with such high stakes ahead.
"We know what's on the line. We're one game away," Donald said. "I told them, pretty much, this is what you work for. All that offseason training, all that camp, all the long grinding days we put in is for playing games like this and we're here now. We're one game away. We just have to go out there and do our job and play a full game for four quarters and finish."
As Morris indicated, when teammates hear Donald's voice, it resonates.
Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey said Donald has broken the defense down more than usual this week to give the unit extra motivation. While the message varies each time, it revolves around the consistent theme of what the defense is trying to accomplish and what the team is trying to accomplish, ensuring the vision is forward-looking, what their goal is and ensuring they're doing everything they can to achieve it.
"Especially the defense thinks so highly of him," Ramsey said. "So it does mean a little bit extra when AD does things like that."
The 30-year-old Donald has accomplished virtually everything at this stage of his career. One of only three players ever to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times, he's also been named a First Team All-Pro in seven consecutive seasons and a Pro Bowler in each of his eight NFL seasons so far.
Virtually all that's left: Winning a Super Bowl.
Donald is doing everything he can to ensure he can check that off. Starting with speaking up more.
"This week, my mindset is there's no way we're going to lose this game," Donald said. "We have to play for quarters. We have to find a way to finish, and I know we're going to do that."