The Rams are close to making a deal with Aaron Donald, or the monotony of answering daily questions about the situation finally got to Sean McVay.
Either way, the Rams coach cut loose Tuesday.
Asked whether he planned to travel to Atlanta to meet with Donald’s representatives — as he and Rams executives did before last year’s preseason finale at Green Bay — McVay detoured from his usual perfunctory answers about the situation.
“Things are heating up,” he said after practice, seemingly with his tongue in cheek. “You might see that sooner than later, you know. It could happen. It’s exciting; we’re very optimistic. Seriously, we are.”
The Rams and Donald are attempting to come to terms on a deal that would put the reigning NFL defensive player of the year among the league’s highest-paid players.
The Rams play their final preseason game Thursday night at New Orleans and then open the season Sept. 10 against the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football.”
McVay joked and sparred with reporters throughout his post-practice media session. He playfully implored Kevin Demoff, the Rams executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer, to help get a deal done.
“The dialogue has increased, the level of urgency is extremely high on both sides,” McVay said. “Let’s go, Kevin Demoff, all right, let’s go. Just kidding.”
Then he said he was serious.
“I’m very optimistic,” he said, “that things will be good for us.”
The Rams’ journey to Atlanta last year did not produce a deal. Donald reported on the eve of the season opener, ensuring he would not lose a game check from his $1.7-million salary. He is scheduled to make about $6.9 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. Looking ahead, the Rams could keep him on the roster by putting the franchise tag on Donald for as many as three seasons.
Donald did not play in the first game last season but still produced 11 sacks.
After last week’s victory over the Houston Texans, defensive lineman Michael Brockers said the Rams’ defense was ready. But, alluding to Donald, he added, “We want that final piece of the puzzle to see what this thing really looks like.”
McVay has said that Donald probably would need to report by early next week to be ready to play in the opener.
“If it’s not done, yeah,” he said of traveling to meet with Donald’s agents. “We’re going to do everything we can to be proactive whether it’s before the game or after being out in New Orleans.
“Whatever we can do to make it work and do our part to try to demonstrate to Aaron how important it is for us to get him here and be a part of this team.
“All jokes aside, there is a level of increased optimism. I’m not really kidding around with that. There’s a lot of things that need to get done for it to be finalized, but we’re working in a positive direction.”
Then he looked into a row of television cameras.
“So, Aaron,” he said, “see ya soon buddy.”
Tight end Gerald Everett, who has been sidelined because of a shoulder injury, said he still has been limited in practices but would be ready for the season opener. “It’s nothing brand new that I’m trying to figure out,” he said. “I played with it last season and my senior season in college so it’s the same where I was at last year. Now I’m just protecting it more.”… Receivers Mike Thomas (hip) and Josh Reynolds (ankle) will not play against the Saints. … Quarterbacks Brandon Allen and Luis Perez will play against the Saints. This will be Perez’s first pro appearance. “It will be fun to watch him compete,” McVay said. “We all know what a good job he’s done in practice and looking forward to seeing him playing in a game.”… Rams starters went through a scrimmage situation Tuesday, and they might do the same early next week, McVay said.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein