It’s back to normal for the Rams and Aaron Donald, who likely will play Sunday
THOUSAND OAKS >> No dramatic moment, no speech, no loud applause. The Rams simply conducted their defensive meetings Monday with Aaron Donald in attendance, and that normalcy had to feel superb.
Donald, the Rams’ star lineman who ended his six-week contract holdout Saturday, got back to work at team headquarters. The plan, according to Coach Sean McVay, is for Donald to be on the field when the Rams resume practice Wednesday and when they play Washington on Sunday at the Coliseum.
“We went about the team meeting like we normally would,” McVay said Monday. “Didn’t want to make a big deal about that. That’s the one thing you respect so much about Aaron. He wants to just come back in here. He doesn’t want to be a distraction at all. That was the first thing he mentioned himself.”
If nothing else, McVay and the Rams can stop answering questions about Donald, who is under contract through the 2018 season but missed all of training camp, and Sunday’s season-opening victory over Indianapolis, as his agent attempted to negotiate a new deal with the Rams.
That didn’t get done, but Donald showed up anyway, no doubt to avoid the loss of a $100,000 first-week paycheck, plus bonus money. Given that Donald is a dominant defender and is known for his fierce workouts, it’s difficult to imagine that Donald won’t play at least a part-time role against Washington.
McVay said he will talk throughout the week with Donald and head trainer Reggie Scott in order the gauge how Donald is coming along. Donald last practiced with the team in late April, during a mini-camp.
“The plan is to get him going,” McVay said, “just back into the flow of a normal weekly rhythm, like all of our players do. He’s back here with us now, and we’re looking to get him going.”
The Rams dominated an injury-weakened Indianapolis team, as they returned two interceptions for touchdowns and recorded a safety and four sacks in a 46-9 victory. The addition of Donald, a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three NFL seasons, will make that unit even stronger.
And while Donald’s contract issue remains unresolved, the Rams on Monday took two small steps that could help. They signed punter Johnny Hekker to a two-year contract extension and defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks to a new two-year contract.
Hekker added two years and $9.6 million to his contract and now won’t be a free agent until 2022. Hekker’s newly structured contract contains $10 million in guaranteed money, the most ever for an NFL punter. Westbrooks’ restructured deal will take him through the 2018 season at a total of $3 million.