Rams not sweating absence of Aaron Donald or starters in preseason games

The Rams hope defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who's holding out for a second straight preseason, suits up soon.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

Even if he’d ended his holdout and reported to training camp weeks ago, Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald would not be on the field Saturday against Oakland.

He would be on the Coliseum sideline with other starters, safely out of harm’s way.

Running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff gave coy answers Monday when asked whether they would play in the Rams’ second preseason game. Coach Sean McVay also remained cagey about his plan.

“We really are kind of figuring it out,” he said.

But McVay, who sat nearly every starter in last week’s preseason opener at Baltimore, almost certainly won’t risk injury to starters against an opponent the Rams also open the season against a few weeks later on “Monday Night Football.”


Although quiet on that front, McVay, Goff and Gurley were animated when talking about Donald.

The reigning NFL defensive player of the year, due to earn about $6.9 million this season, is holding out as he seeks a new contract that would put him among the league’s highest-paid players. McVay said dialogue between the Rams and Donald’s representatives continues but the situation “hasn’t changed.”

It might not until after the preseason ends, when the issue becomes more pressing.

The Rams want the four-time Pro Bowl player aboard when they begin their quest to repeat as NFC West champions and contend for the Super Bowl. Donald proved last season he does not need training camp or preseason games to be ready.

Gurley, Goff and McVay joked that having him sit out camp for a second year in row actually might offer some advantages.

If “A.D.” was in camp, he would mess up “the whole practice,” Gurley said.

“You know because it’s like you get the hand-off and he’s like right there,” said Gurley, the reigning NFL offensive player of the year. “So a guy like that … you have to sit him back and tell him to tone it down a little bit just so you can get some good reps.”

Goff agreed.

“It’s nice being able to get off some good plays and not have to worry about him ruining the play,” he said, adding, “We miss him and hope he comes back soon.”


McVay, who doubles as the Rams’ play-caller, could live with Donald’s disruptiveness on the field.

“That would be a disruption that would be more than welcomed right now,” he said.

Gurley was among veteran players who were given the day off Monday. Offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan and defensive lineman Michael Brockers also sat out the day before Tuesday’s scheduled day off.

If Rams starters sit out as expected against the Raiders, the third preseason game against Houston might be the only time they play before their Sept. 10 opener. Standard NFL coaching protocol is to hold out starters in the fourth preseason game.

Goff does not foresee a problem if he plays in only one preseason game.

“If that were to happen,” he said, “I think we’d be OK.”

McVay has prepared the players well enough during offseason organized-team activities and training camp practices, Gurley said.

“Once Week 1 come around,” Gurley said, “you don’t really have no choice but to be ready.”

The Rams return to practice Wednesday and also will work out Thursday before breaking training camp.

“Life can’t get any better [than] when you break camp,” Gurley said.



McVay rewarded players with an early end to practice and cancellation of evening meetings after rookie offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom was successful on the challenge to field a punt launched from a machine. “Bounced it off his shoulder pads and made a nice catch right there,” McVay said. “So, guys were excited about that.” Said Goff: “We were practicing before, I was trying to toss them up in the air to him. He got us out of here; it’s good.”… Goff connected with receiver Cooper Kupp for two touchdowns during drills inside the 20-yard line. … Cornerback Aqib Talib returned after sitting out Sunday because of ankle soreness. The veteran cornerback intercepted a pass by Sean Mannion. ... Cornerback Dominque Hatfield intercepted a pass by Goff in the end zone.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein