Los Angeles Rams star DT Aaron Donald does not report for training camp

Jarrett Bell
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IRVINE, Calif. — Aaron Donald, arguably the NFL's top defensive tackle, was a no-show for the start of Los Angeles Rams training camp Friday.

Rams DT Aaron Donald has been an all-pro twice in three NFL seasons.

Barring some explanation, Donald — engaged in a contract dispute — officially became a holdout after a 10 a.m. PT deadline passed for veterans to report.

This wasn’t a totally shocking development to the team. Thursday, general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay expressed concern in acknowledging uncertainty of Donald's intentions. 

Now they seemingly know for sure. It’s about the money.

Donald’s absence also represents a big dose of adversity as McVay, 31, opens his first training camp at the University of Cal-Irvine as the youngest head coach in modern NFL history.

“I think these are delicate situations,” Snead said Thursday. “I think you have to respect Aaron and his side in that business move. It is really at that point all about respect.”


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Donald, a two-time all-pro who earned defensive rookie of the year honors after the Rams drafted him 13th overall in 2014, surely has a case for being underpaid. He’s due a $1.8 million salary and $1.4 million in bonuses for 2017. After the Rams exercised a fifth-year option on his original rookie deal, he is scheduled to earn $6.9 million in 2018.

Clearly the Rams’ best player, Donald is seeking a long-term deal that would put him into the upper tier of compensation at his position. At the moment, 40 defensive tackles have higher average salaries, topped by the $19.1 million collected by Miami Dolphins star Ndamukong Suh on a per-year basis.

Said Snead: “We are working to find the resolution … working to find a win-win.”

Donald attended mandatory minicamp in June but skipped voluntary organized team activities earlier in the offseason. He is subject to being fined $40,000 per day for his training camp absence.

Rams players were scheduled to undergo a conditioning test Friday morning before hitting the field Saturday for the first full-squad practice of the summer.

Linebacker Robert Quinn maintains that Donald’s absence won’t be a distraction.

“No, not at all,” Quinn said Friday. “You look, even during OTAs, guys didn’t let it become a problem. We know it’s hard, we know he wants to be here. My college coach told me, he said, ‘Make plays, get paid.’ So it kind of balance itself out.

"Aaron has a great heart. He loves playing football, first and foremost. He’s just going through a tough little situation right now. The guys have his back, and once he finally decides to come out here, we’d love to see his face and take it from there.”

While Snead acknowledged Donald’s situation as a priority, McVay, trying to reverse the fortunes of a team that finished 4-12 last season, said it was important for him to demonstrate leadership.

“We’ve got to be ready to handle different situations and not flinch,” McVay said on Thursday of the potential for a Donald holdout. "And if that’s something that we have to react to, we’ll move forward accordingly.

"However things play out, whether it’s injuries or some of these things that we’re talking about right now, September 10th (the regular-season opener) is going to come quick, and the Colts won’t have any reservations about giving us their best shot.”


Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell

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