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For second year in row, no new Aaron Donald contract so no defensive tackle at workouts

For second year in row, no new Aaron Donald contract so no defensive tackle at workouts
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald closes in on Redskins running back Samaje Perine in the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

New star players acquired during a flurry of offseason activity made their way to the Rams' Thousand Oaks facility Monday for the start of voluntary offseason workouts.

Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and receiver Brandin Cooks met most teammates for the first time.

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But the quartet's introduction to — or reacquainting with — star defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have to wait.

As expected, the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year remained in Pittsburgh, where he is working out while awaiting a resolution to his contract situation. Donald, scheduled to make $6.9 million in the final year of his rookie deal, is believed to be seeking an extension that would pay more than $20 million per season.

Coach Sean McVay said he has been in contact with Donald throughout the offseason.

"We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal," McVay said, adding, "You know he's a guy that's going to work hard on his off time and that's kind of where we're at."

Donald was the only player missing on a day that featured a vibe of heightened expectations. It was a stark contrast to last spring, when cautious optimism surrounded the recently hired McVay, the youngest coach in modern NFL history.

Now, after winning the NFC West and adding more stars, the Rams are in the heart of Super Bowl conversation, with Donald expected to play a huge role in a remade defense.

"I don't think I would ever use the word crisis," McVay said of Donald's situation and the prospects of working out a deal. "I think we all know how important Aaron is to this football team and this organization."

Last year, Donald attended offseason workouts but stayed away from organized team activities. He attended but did not participate in drills during a mandatory minicamp and sat out training camp before reporting on the eve of the first game. He still put together a dominant season, recording 11 sacks.

Donald's absence is not a distraction, defensive lineman Michael Brockers said.

"We've dealt with it before," Brockers said, "and we also know that it's a business."

As Donald was last year, running back Todd Gurley is entering his fourth season. The reigning NFL offensive player of the year is scheduled to earn $4.4 million. Asked if he had thoughts of skipping organized team activities, Gurley said, "Nah, I'm good, man. I'm here."

Quarterback Jared Goff, preparing for his third season, said he was looking forward to teaming with Cooks and practicing against Peters, Talib and Suh. He is focused on mastering the offense in his second season working with McVay.

"I really feel like this is truly my first real offseason," said Goff, the first pick in the 2016 draft. "Last year was an offseason but there was so much transition going with the new staff and trying to learn the offense."

Last week, Goff worked out with receiver Robert Woods and other teammates as they prepared for Monday and the start of the team's offseason program.

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"For me, it looked like we didn't miss a beat," Woods said. "You see everybody running fast, catching the ball, Jared's on the money with the timing."

Etc.

*Safety Lamarcus Joyner signed an $11.2 million franchise-tag tender. Defensive lineman Matt Longacre signed a restricted free-agent tender for $1.9 million. The Rams re-signed free agent offensive linemen Cornelius Lucas and Darrell Williams. They also signed cornerback Troy Hill, running back Malcolm Brown and kicker Sam Ficken, all exclusive-rights free agents.

*Suh will wear jersey No. 93. Ethan Westbrooks switched from 93 to 95. Westbrooks was recently sentenced to three years of probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm. Asked if Westbrooks would face team discipline, McVay said, "These are things that we were in tune with all along the way. He was transparent, he was open and honest with regards to how everything played out, and that solution is something we anticipated. We feel good about where we're at with that."

*Kicker Greg Zuerlein is "making great progress" in his comeback from late-season back surgery, McVay said. "Right now it's just making sure we don't do anything to set him back," McVay said. "In an ideal situation we'd let him kick, but right now those are things that are going to be determined as we go further along and we'll kind of be able to discuss that as we go closer" to organized-team activities in May.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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