His status as the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player lasted one day.
That was fine with Rams’ defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who signed a $135-million extension last week, and then saw Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack sign for $141 million the next day.
“I’m just happy that, you know, my situation got done and that I’m here playing football,” Donald said after practice Thursday. “That’s all that matters.”
Donald, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, has gone through several workouts since ending his holdout and signing a deal that includes $87 million in guarantees.
Donald will be in the starting lineup Monday night when the Rams open the season against the Oakland Raiders.
“I feel good, in shape,” he said. “The rust is getting knocked off just right.”
Donald, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, sat out training camp for the second year in a row. In 2017, he reported on the eve of the opener and did not play in the first game. He still finished with 11 sacks, increasing his career total to 39.
“You kind of knew what to expect,” he said of returning to practice after a long time away from football. “Got the opportunity to come back and get six practices under my belt before the first game, so I think that’s going to be a bigger help for me as far as getting adjusted.”
Donald’s transition has been smooth, fellow defensive linemen said.
“A.D. is a pro,” Michael Brockers said. “He’s been studying the playbook, he’s been watching film.
“We plugged him in and he knew everything he was supposed to do. So, I mean, we haven’t skipped a beat. We actually, honestly, picked up the tempo. ... He’s done a phenomenal job and I think we’ll be ready for Monday.”
Said Ethan Westbrooks: “It’s an exciting feeling to know that everybody is back. There’s no distractions, nothing to worry about.”