Rams All-Pro Donald skips opening OTAs during contract talks
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities Monday while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.
Rams general manager Les Snead said the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex, and he isn't worried about a long-term absence for the anchor of Los Angeles' defense. Donald already is under contract through 2018.
''It has something to do with the contract,'' Snead said. ''I can tell you this: We're definitely at the serious stages of renegotiating. Going to keep all the details in-house, but (we) respect Aaron as a player, a person. Respect his representation, and respect the process.''
The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month, agreeing to pay him nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign their 2014 first-round pick to a long-term deal, believing Donald deserves a hefty raise.
''There's no doubt he's a really good player,'' Snead said. ''We want him to be around. That's our goal. I think his goal is to be a Ram, and that's what we're working toward.''
Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career. He was the NFL's defensive rookie of the year in 2014, when the slightly undersized lineman first established his persistently disruptive presence in the heart of St. Louis' defense.
Snead smiled when asked, but he declined to say whether Donald is simply staying out of potential injury situations until the long-term deal is finalized.
Donald seems likely to become the next NFL defensive star to get a contract with a value around $100 million, joining Houston's J.J. Watt and Denver's Von Miller.
Donald hasn't missed a game in three NFL seasons, recording 28 sacks and 163 tackles. Even beyond his impressive statistics, Donald's run-plugging acumen and pass-rushing skills constantly force the Rams' opponents to assign multiple blockers to handle the 6-foot powerhouse.
Donald was the only significant player absent from Monday's workouts under new coach Sean McVay. Even receiver Tavon Austin, who isn't practicing after having wrist surgery this month, ran on the field and worked on his catching skills with a tennis ball on the sideline.
McVay wouldn't say whether he expects Donald to miss more offseason workouts. The Rams have nine more sessions of organized team activities over the next three weeks before their mandatory minicamp next month.
''Those discussions are kind of internal right now, but we expected him not to be here,'' McVay said.
Snead also confirmed the Rams will finish out their offseason program before deciding how aggressively they will pursue a long-term extension with cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who is scheduled to play under the franchise tag this year for the second consecutive season. Johnson is due to make a hefty $16.7 million under the franchise tag, but an extension likely could reduce his salary cap hit.
The Rams decided to wait on talks until new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips evaluates Johnson's skills in their new defense.
''We want to get through OTAs, make sure it's a fit on all sides, and then we'll not take a summer vacation and see if we can figure something out there,'' Snead said. ''That's our plan right now.''
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