By Cedric Williams
By ending his 44-day holdout over the weekend and participating in team drills and meetings on Monday, defensive lineman Aaron Donald made an official return to the Rams roster. Donald sat out all of training camp and missed last week’s regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts to protest his current contract with the club.
No new deal was reached, but Donald decided it was time to end the holdout and report to Rams practice.
The fourth-year player and three-time Pro Bowler took a physical on Saturday, watched the game from home on Sunday, and was at practice on Monday, just like all of his teammates. Head coach Sean McVay told the media on Monday that he informed his players of Donald’s return on Saturday and told them to expect to see him at meetings on Monday.
“Didn’t want to make a big deal about that,” McVay said. “That’s the one thing that I mentioned that you respect about Aaron is he just wants to come back here. He doesn’t want to be a distraction at all. That’s why he wasn’t at the game (Sunday).
“That’s the first thing that he mentioned himself because he realized how important it was for us to kind of take a step in the right direction. That’s what he wanted for his team, and that’s what you like about Aaron. That he’s all about football.”
Donald was drafted in 2014 and still has two years left on his rookie contract, which will pay him a combined base salary of less than $9 million. Donald believes, and most experts agree, that he has outplayed that contract and he would like to negotiate a new deal.
Neither side has discussed specifically what Donald has asked for nor what the club has offered, but both sides seem to believe an agreement could be reached.
In fact, about three weeks ago, the Rams sent a contingent of front office executives, which included chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, general manager Les Snead, and even the head coach McVay himself, to a meeting with Donald’s agents in Atlanta to discuss where both sides were on the idea of giving the two-time All-Pro a new deal.
McVay talked about that meeting with the media on Monday and explained why he felt it was so important that he be there himself, even though his club was preparing for its last preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
“It was more just trying to show how important this situation is to our football team,” McVay said. “Let them know that while I’m not going to be involved in terms of the money and the negotiations, I just wanted them to be able to hear how important Aaron is for the overall dynamic, everything that we’re trying to get done and accomplished and how much respect his teammates have for him.”
The Rams will be on the practice field on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Donald expected to be a full participant.
Rams make roster moves
Along with taking Donald off the exempt list and moving him to the active player list, the Rams waived two players and added another on Monday.
OL J.J. Dielman and DT Quinton Jefferson were cut by the Rams on Monday, while OL Cornelius Lucas was claimed off waivers to fill the 53rd and final spot. Lucas had spent the previous three seasons with the Detroit Lions, before being cut by that club last month.