LOS ANGELES — All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald reported to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, ending his four-month holdout without getting a new contract.
Donald passed his physical when he reported to the Rams’ training complex in Thousand Oaks, but the three-time Pro Bowl selection will not play in the season opener at the Coliseum against Indianapolis on Sunday. Coach Sean McVay ruled him out for the opener Friday.
Donald stayed away from the Rams starting in May, holding out through offseason team activities, training camp and the entire preseason while attempting to get a lucrative new contract. The Rams agreed that Donald deserved a pay raise after just three standout seasons, and they held months of civil negotiations with the star’s representatives.
The sides couldn’t reach a deal, but they intend to continue talks even with Donald back in uniform, the Rams announced.
Donald will be on the Rams’ active roster Sunday despite not playing. The franchise is expected to receive a roster exemption from the NFL that will allow them to pay Donald without cutting a player from their 53-man roster before Monday.
Donald is scheduled to make $1.8 million this year and $6.9 million in 2018 under the terms of his rookie deal. Even the Rams agree that the rookie scale contract isn’t reflective of Donald’s status as one of the NFL’s most effective players at any position.
Donald is seeking a contract that would make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. By reporting this week, he avoided any chance of preseason injury, and he also won’t miss any game checks from the Rams, who appear determined to stay on Donald’s good side by not fining him or taking any other punitive actions.
Donald is among the top defensive players in the sport, recording 28 sacks in three seasons and earning a reputation as both an elite pass-rusher and run-stopper. He was the AP’s defensive rookie of the year as a first-round pick in St. Louis in 2014, and the 6-foot dynamo has only improved.
Donald missed the Rams’ entire training camp under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is eager to plug Donald into the center of his 3-4 defense. Donald’s teammates said he was staying active and training back home in Pittsburgh, but they expect him to need a few weeks to get into game shape.
The Rams host Washington next weekend, and McVay has said Donald will play whenever he is able to contribute, even if it isn’t on every snap.
Tanzel Smart, a rookie sixth-round pick out of Tulane, is expected to start in Donald’s place Sunday against the Colts.