Rams’ Aaron Donald gets back to the business of playing

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who missed last week’s season opener, is expected to start Sunday.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

His holdout because of a contract dispute is over and he is back on the practice field with Rams teammates.

But “the business side of things,” as defensive lineman Aaron Donald repeatedly described it Wednesday, continues to hover.

In the meantime, Donald is preparing for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

“My main thing is just football,” he said after participating in full-team practice for the first time this season.


Despite his prolonged absence, which included sitting out the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Donald is on track to start against Washington, coach Sean McVay said.

“He looked fast, looked fresh,” McVay said, adding, “Didn’t look like he missed a beat.”

Donald, who has two seasons remaining on his rookie contract, sat out offseason workouts, attended but did not participate in a mandatory June minicamp and sat out all of training camp because he wants a new deal.

Donald and his representatives at CAA Sports are believed to be seeking a contract that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.


Now that he is on site, the Rams might be more inclined to negotiate the finer points of an extension with the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Donald was asked if he had achieved what he wanted through is holdout, whether the Rams had made him an offer that would make him the league’s highest-paid defensive player, and whether he was close to a deal.

Donald, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with CAA Sports across the front, responded to each question by saying that he would let his agents handle it.

“I love football, so being away from it definitely was tough,” he said, adding, “The way I chose to handle it is the way I chose to handle it and I’m here now.”

Donald worked out in Pittsburgh the last few months and said he was in “great shape.” He acknowledged, however, that it was not the same as playing football.

“So, just going day by day here and just seeing how I feel as the week goes on,” he said.

Donald played in a 4-3 scheme during his first three NFL seasons. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has installed a 3-4.

Not a problem, Donald said.


“I don’t feel like I’m behind or anything as far as knowing the plays,” he said. “I might mess up here and there, but when I was out there … I felt pretty solid.”

Throughout Donald’s holdout, teammates supported him and said they looked forward to welcoming him back.

Donald was in team and position group meetings Monday. But Wednesday was the first full practice since his return.

“It’s nice seeing him across the line of scrimmage again, making practice hard for us again,” quarterback Jared Goff said.

It felt “normal” to have Donald on the field, defensive tackle Michael Brockers said.

And there apparently was no drop-off in Donald’s performance.

“He’s making plays, he’s getting to the backfield before me, and stuff like that,” Brockers said. “You definitely notice he’s out there because you’re like ‘Dang! I should have made that play’ and you kind of get a little jealous, but it’s all love. … We feel complete with him here.”

It remains to be seen if, or how much, Donald plays Sunday.


General manager Les Snead and the team’s analytics staff has studied how many snaps players returning from holdouts have logged, McVay said. So Donald will be monitored throughout the week and on game day.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that he expected Donald to be lined up in a familiar spot, just off an offensive guard’s outside shoulder.

“He’s got every move you want — he can power rush you, he can spin you, he can rip you, he gets off the snap with great tempo and he’s fast,” Gruden said, “so it will be a great challenge.”

The Rams recently made several financial moves with other players that appear to be laying the groundwork for a possible new deal for Donald and others such as linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Lamarcus Joyner.

During his holdout, neither the Rams nor Donald’s representatives publicly criticized each other.

Asked whether he felt animosity toward the Rams front office, he gave an unemotional response.

“Just business,” he said, “that’s all.”


Safety Maurice Alexander (shoulder), cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder), linebacker Connor Barwin (rest) and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (rest) did not practice, according to the Rams injury report.

Staff writer Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein