Packers are game planning as though Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald will play

Kassidy Hill
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY − Matt LaFleur isn't taking any chances when it comes to Aaron Donald.

The Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman didn't practice Thursday with an ankle injury and hasn't played since Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs. But as LaFleur is preparing the Green Bay Packers for the Monday night showdown with the Rams, he is game-planning like Donald will be on the field.

"I'm assuming (he'll play)," the Packers coach said Thursday. "I think we'll find out at the game, I don't know. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But we'd be fools not to prepare for a guy like that."

Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters this week that Donald had not been shut down for the season despite the team's 4-9 record and Donald's absence the past two games. With the possibility of playing time still on the docket for Donald, the Packers are essentially assembling two playbooks: one for if Donald is on the field and one in case he isn't.

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) is double-teamed by the Green Bay Packers during a playoff game following the 2020 season.

"He is a guy that absolutely 100% impacts the game," LaFleur said. "Generational player, first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the best to ever play the game. So I think you always have to have a plan for him. How much he plays, you know, if he doesn't play then you got to have a contingency plan for if he's not there.

"Certainly, I think, the challenge against going against him over the last couple of years, he definitely takes some plays that you'd like to have in the game plan and he just wipes them out. If you can't protect or maybe at the point of attack and some of the runs, he's just that big of a problem. He's a monster to prepare for."

Aaron Rodgers has played against Donald four times times, with a record of 3-1. Over the course of those four games, Donald has 11 tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits. Rodgers said he hasn't encountered many stars like Donald, even fewer who play his position.

"He's a Hall of Famer," Rodgers said. "He's one of the top interior lineman to play in the league. Definitely top three in my generation and he's a generational-type player, where he could be dominant in any generation of football. He's a game wrecker.

"There's few players in the league that the scheme is built around stopping one player or trying to minimize the impact one player has ... but when it's an interior rusher, that's why it's so rare ... there's not many guys that can dominate like he has over the years."

Whether Donald plays Monday is still undecided. The Rams have two more days of practice to try to get Donald on the field to test his ankle.

David Bakhtiari doesn't practice Thursday

One player they most likely won't have to help stop Donald is left tackle David Bakhtiari, who continues to recover from an appendectomy on Dec. 2. He did not play in the Week 13 win against the Chicago Bears.

While he was in the building during Thursday's practice, he did not participate. The timeline to recover and return to normal activity after an appendectomy can be vastly different from patient to patient, although most medical experts recommend around four weeks for strenuous activity. It's a timeline LaFleur admits to having to learn on the go.

"This is the first time I've been around a player that has had one of these, at least in the season," LaFleur said Thursday. "So we'll see how he progresses throughout the course of the week. And obviously he's a guy that doesn't need a lot of time on the field to get out there and go play, so if he's capable of doing that, you know, probably a long shot, but we'll see."

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Offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins (knee) was the only other Packers player who did not participate Thursday. Running back Aaron Jones (ankle) was a limited participant. All other players were full participants.

The Rams had six players sit out practice, including Donald. Center Brian Allen (knee), defensive tackle Marquise Copeland (ankle), linebacker Travin Howard (hip), defensive back David Long Jr. (groin) and quarterback John Wolford (neck) were all held out and did not participate.

Linebacker Ernest Jones (wrist), linebacker Terrell Lewis (back) and defensive back Robert Rochell (wrist) were limited participants for the Rams.

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