Aaron Donald is back on the field for the Rams but has things to tackle

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald closes in on Redskins running back Samaje Perine in the fourth quarter.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Aaron Donald read the play, burst into the backfield and nearly grabbed the ball out of midair.

But the Rams defensive lineman just missed.

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson took the pitch from quarterback Kirk Cousins and turned the corner for a first-quarter touchdown, helping to send the Rams to a 27-20 loss Sunday at the Coliseum.

Donald is yet to be settled after sitting out of training camp because of a contract dispute. He reported last week, and started Sunday after only three days of practice.

“Felt good to be out there,” Donald said. “Definitely felt good to get back on the field playing football again.”

But the three-time Pro Bowl selection also was disappointed.

“I don’t like how I played today,” Donald said.

Donald failed to win several one-on-one matchups as the Redskins rushed for 229 yards. Cousins passed for 179 yards.


“I need to win those, that’s what they put me out there for,” Donald said. “Just got to knock off the cobwebs and go out there and play a lot better.”

Donald made a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hit.

Despite the defeat, teammates were encouraged by Donald’s return.

Linebacker Robert Quinn said Donald’s availability alone altered the Redskins’ game plan.

“It made them a little nervous because they know the talent he has,” Quinn said.

In his first game playing with Donald, linebacker Connor Barwin said it was apparent they could develop a rapport.

“It’s just going to continue to grow as the season goes on,” Barwin said. “He’s obviously super talented and he’s a really smart player too.”

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said during the week that he would hold Donald to a “pitch count.” Donald did not play in every series and often came off the field.

Fatigue was not a factor in his performance, Donald said, and neither was playing in Phillips’ 3-4 scheme for the first time.

“It’s the same as a 4-3, honestly,” Donald said.

Donald said he’d play better in “due time,” though time, at least this week, is not on his side.

The Rams must quickly prepare for a Thursday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’ll be good next week,” Donald said. “Just to be out there with live bullets … get the speed of the game, seeing little things that help me play a little faster … breaking down the film and coming back next week, a lot better.”

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