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Aaron Donald staying busy in quarantine

When Aaron Donald logged on to meet with local media for a video conference call Thursday afternoon, reporters were greeted not only by him, but a recent shirtless photo of himself as his virtual background.

"I don't want y'all to think I'm slacking," he said with a smile.

Even in quarantine, the Rams defensive tackle is still getting plenty of work done. The video conference background isn't the only evidence either.

Like he's done in past offseasons, he is spending time back home in the city of Pittsburgh. He stays active by working out in "the dungeon," also known as the small home gym in the basement of his dad's house which he's been using since he was 12 years old.

These days, he has been conducting workouts there with his nephew Elliot, a consensus four-star defensive line recruit in the class of 2021 who has accumulated 18 scholarship offers so far. Beyond exercising in his childhood home, Donald is also working with his speed trainer.

Donald normally works out in Pitt's football performance center which bears his name, but those facilities have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For me, it's been good," he said. "It's been a little bit different here and there because I ain't got as much as I got at Pitt, but I feel like I've been getting great work in still."

Donald has also been sharpening the minds of others as well as his own.

Back in mid-April, his AD99 Solutions Foundation created a free, 8-week virtual education series for 13- to 18-year-old student athletes called Mental Flex Forums. The opportunities were designed to help them "maintain a winner's mindset off-the-field," according to the foundation's official Twitter page.

Donald also fulfilled a post-draft promise to his parents by completing his Pitt communications degree this spring, taking online classes over the last two years as part of the process.

"They were proud of me, they're happy," Donald said. "It was a process, but it was worth it at the end of the day."

In a sense, this offseason hasn't been too different from what Donald is used to – he was working out in Pittsburgh and working toward finishing his degree last year, too.

Still, the biggest adjustment has been having to learn new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley's scheme and philosophies after being in the same defense since 2017.

"I'm definitely starting to like it a lot," Donald said. "I'm anxious to actually get on the grass and get to play and see how this thing plays out."

When that time comes, a certain virtual background suggests he'll be ready.

Check out this week's player spotlight featuring DT Aaron Donald!

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