THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Like the rib injury in the 2020 divisional round playoff game against the Packers in Green Bay, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald was able to gut through a high ankle sprain sustained in the first quarter of last Sunday's game against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
However, that high ankle sprain will sideline Donald for Sunday's game against the Seahawks, leaving big shoes to fill for Los Angeles' young defensive linemen.
"It's pretty easy. You just go into it without the best football player of all time and get ready for a team," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris jokingly said Thursday. "But no, it is what it is. Aaron Donald's got some people, he's been training his whole crew. He's been developing a bunch of guys that try to mimic some of his movements and do some of the things he can do. So you feel good about getting those guys and then go back them up, and it's their chance to go prove to their big brother that they can go out there and play and do some of those things. You feel good about that."
Donald's absence will mark the first time in his nine-year career – spanning 138 games – that he has missed a game due to injury. He missed the 2017 season opener after reporting on the eve of it, and also missed Week 17 that same year due to Rams head coach Sean McVay electing to rest his starters with playoff positioning secured.
The Rams deploy Donald across the defensive line, and that versatility is part of the reason that he's an irreplaceable player. Without him, as well as defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, more will be asked not only of Greg Gaines, but younger defensive linemen like Williams and Marquise Copeland, too.
Copeland has seen consistent time in the defensive line rotation since Week 5, making five starts while playing in all 11 of the Rams' games so far this season. He's produced 17 total tackles, one QB hit and one sack.
"Really just playing together," Copeland said of the ground's mindset. "He's still gonna be around, he's Aaron, he's gonna be our leader, he's gonna be in the building giving us pointers and stuff like that and talking to him. But for younger guys stepping up, I think it's going to be a good opportunity for us. W're going to play together and believe in each other."
Williams, on the other hand, has played in 10 of the Rams' 11 games, with the bulk of his play coming on special teams. He said that even with Donald out, the expectations are still the same.
"Our expectation as a d-line is to have no drop-off," Williams told theRams.com. "AD is the best player in the league, but we still expect to defend the run. It's good to see we do that and in fact, the passer expectations for the games have no drop off."
Take a look at the best practice photos as Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee, quarterbacks Bryce Perkins and John Wolford, defensive back Jalen Ramsey and more get ready to take on the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium this Sunday.