Rams DT Aaron Donald skips mandatory minicamp, seeking deal
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By GREG BEACHAM
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is not attending the Los Angeles Rams' mandatory minicamp while he continues his lengthy quest for a lucrative new contract.
Donald wasn't on the field with his teammates for the Rams' first minicamp workout Tuesday, and he wasn't at their training complex for their off-field commitments Monday, either. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year also skipped the Rams' voluntary workout program over the previous two months.
"He's in a good place," Rams coach Sean McVay said Tuesday. "Would we want him to be here? Yeah, we'd love to have Aaron here. But it's kind of the same where it's been. We're just focusing on the guys that are here, but we're always in constant dialogue with Aaron and his group, and would like to come to a solution. When that's going to happen, it's hard to say."
Donald is home in Pittsburgh during the Rams' offseason work for the second straight year, but he reported to last season's mandatory minicamp to avoid a potential fine. This year, Donald doesn't appear to be concerned about losing money by missing minicamp while he strives to become one of the NFL's highest-paid players.
The defending NFC West champion Rams haven't indicated whether they intend to fine Donald for missing the camp, but his absence wasn't a surprise. The team could fine him more than $84,000 for missing this camp, but it waived much larger fines incurred by Donald last year when he skipped the entirety of training camp.
"When I spoke with him last week, I said, `If there's not a solution to this by next week, will you be here?'" McVay said. "He said, `I'm going to stay back at home, continue training.'"
Donald is due to make nearly $6.9 million this season in the fifth year of his rookie contract. The team agrees he deserves a raise after turning in four dominant seasons as the cornerstone of the Rams' defense, yet the Rams and Donald's representatives still haven't made a deal after many months of talking.
The 27-year-old Donald doesn't have extensive leverage in the negotiation because the Rams theoretically could keep him for another three seasons through 2021 under a franchise tag. Neither side has disclosed their contract proposals, but Donald is widely thought to be seeking a contract big enough to make him one of the top-paid players at any position, with a salary comparable to the wages of the NFL's better quarterbacks.
The Rams have managed to maintain a positive relationship with Donald even after he skipped training camp and the entire preseason schedule last summer. He reported to the team shortly before the regular season began, missing the first game.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection also skipped most of the Rams' offseason program and organized team activities last year. Although he showed up for last season's mandatory minicamp, he didn't participate in the team drills, instead doing individual work and staying on the sidelines.
Donald is expected to be the foundation of a standout defensive line alongside Rams newcomer Ndamukong Suh, who agreed to a one-year, $14 million deal in the offseason.
Donald is missing several weeks of work with the Rams' revamped defense, which also added star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters while losing three veteran leaders: Trumaine Johnson, Robert Quinn and captain Alec Ogletree.
The new Rams don't seem worried about missing these chances to build chemistry while establishing new leaders in the locker room.
"He's the MVP, so we know what he's going to do when he gets here," Talib said. "Everybody is just going to be themselves. If you're a leader, it's going to happen naturally. Nobody has to go out of their way to be a leader, go out of their way to hoorah and just yell stuff out. Everybody will just be themselves."
NOTES: Donald is the only player unaccounted for at minicamp, McVay confirmed. ... McVay is canceling Thursday's scheduled practice and taking his team on a tour of the franchise's under-construction stadium in Inglewood, California. The Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers will open the multibillion-dollar Hollywood Park stadium complex in 2020.
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Updated June 12, 2018