Rams’ Aaron Donald ready to chase down former teammate Jared Goff
The Rams’ star defensive lineman exchanged texts this week with Goff.
“Just cracking jokes here and there,” Donald said Thursday after practice. “We going to do our job and get after him and try to have some success.”
Donald, the 13th player chosen in the 2014 draft, was a two-year veteran when the Rams selected Goff with the No. 1 pick in 2016. They were teammates for five seasons, high-profile players who helped the Rams win two straight NFC West titles and make a Super Bowl run.
After last season, the Rams traded Goff to the Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. So, for the first time, Donald will be chasing down Goff without worrying about hitting him.
Will that be weird?
“It ain’t going to be weird at all,” Donald said, chuckling. “I told him, ‘Get ready.’ I told him I’m going to be coming after him, so he knows what it is.
“I’m going to go out there, fly around try to make my plays when they present themselves. Hopefully I get to him a couple times.”
The Times’ Sam Farmer analyzes each matchup and predicts the winners of Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season.
“He said something funny back,” Donald said, “but that’s between us.”
Donald, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, has 3½ sacks for a Rams team that is 5-1 and coming off a 38-11 victory over the New York Giants.
Donald had half a sack in the victory, increasing his career total to 89.
Donald’s stellar play continues to lift that of teammates. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd has 4½ sacks.
“Aaron Donald makes everybody better,” Lions coach Dan Campbell told Los Angeles reporters this week.
Goff is not the only familiar face returning to SoFi Stadium with the 0-6 Lions.
It’s also a homecoming for defensive lineman Michael Brockers, the Rams’ first-round draft pick in 2012 who was traded to the Lions last March after declining to take a pay cut.
Donald says he remains in regular contact with Brockers in a weekly FaceTime call that includes teammate Sebastian Joseph-Day and former Rams lineman Morgan Fox.
Brockers, 30, was among the Rams players who welcomed and nurtured Donald in his first two seasons in St. Louis. He was there alongside Donald when the Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016, and he was an important part of Rams teams that flourished under coach Sean McVay and enjoyed success under defensive coordinators Wade Phillips and then Brandon Staley.
“He’s been with me since day one,” Donald said. “You build a bond with somebody like that. It’s really a brotherhood, somebody that you’re close with outside of football. You hang with a lot.
“So, we just got a close a relationship. I wish he was still here, but he’s not.”
A’Shawn Robinson, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Lions, has replaced Brockers. Donald said Robinson, “has stepped up to try and fill some big shoes with Brock being gone — been doing a great job, but he’s definitely missed.”
Brockers has been welcomed in Detroit, and has been “a godsend,” Campbell said.
“It’s one of the reasons why we made the move we did with him — not only the player, the production he brings, the type of player but, man, his leadership has been outstanding,” Campbell said. “He shows all our young guys, especially those guys up front, like, ‘This is how you practice. This is how you go to work. This is how you approach your craft. This is how you prepare for business.’
“He’s been great.”
Donald said “it’s going to be love after the game,” with Brockers.
There are bound to be exchanges with Goff during and after the game.
Goff this week told Detroit reporters that Donald is “a Hall of Fame talent, but he’s also a Hall of Fame worker, a person, a player, and kind of just competing against him every day for five years, he put it on display every day.”
Lions quarterback Jared Goff said he appreciated Rams coach Sean McVay admitting the trade that sent him to Detroit could have been handled better.
Asked Thursday what he will say to Goff if he wraps him up and lands on top of him, Donald cut off the question.
“Maybe not, I’ll get fined,” he said, chuckling. “Maybe if I land and roll off, land and roll to the side.”
But what will he say in the moment?
“It could be anything,” Donald said. “I might bark at him. Might say something. I don’t know. It depends on how the game’s going, how the crowd’s got me pumped up.
“I’m more of that in-the-moment-type person so hopefully I get to him. Ask me after the game.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.