Donald’s holdout from Rams now threatening regular season

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams are almost out of time to end All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald’s holdout before it impacts their regular season.

General manager Les Snead acknowledged Tuesday that Donald probably couldn’t be ready to take most of the snaps in Los Angeles’ season opener if he doesn’t end his holdout by the weekend.

"That would be a safe assumption," Snead said.

After their final preseason game Thursday at Green Bay, the Rams begin Sept. 10 at home against Indianapolis.

Donald has been away from the Rams since he skipped organized team activities in late May. He missed the Rams’ entire training camp while working on a new contract heading into his fourth professional season.

Snead has made little substantive public comment since Donald’s holdout began, preferring to maintain a positive, upbeat relationship with the Rams’ most dynamic player even while contract talks drag on. The Rams are in regular contact with Donald’s representatives, Snead confirmed.

"We still want Aaron," Snead said. "We want him to be here as soon as possible. … Aaron Donald is on pace to be a Hall of Famer. We’re three years in, and Hall-of-Famers aren’t made three years in. But if there’s a race to the gold jacket, he’s started strong. Any time you’ve got that type of player, you definitely want them here short-term as well as long-term."

Donald has been among the NFL’s most effective defensive players since entering the league in 2014, but the disruptive defensive lineman hasn’t been around to learn new co-ordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. The Rams also lost Dominique Easley to a knee injury early in camp, leaving Phillips without two of his three projected starters on the line.

Donald has been working out at home in Pittsburgh, but his teammates realize that not even Donald can get ready without real practice time.

"He’s going to be hurting," running back Todd Gurley said with a laugh. "It doesn’t matter. I work out three times a day during the off-season. You come back, that first day of practice, it is what it is. That’s just football for you. It takes some time. I’m pretty sure he’s grinding, but it’s definitely different."

Donald is due to make $1.8 million this season and $6.9 million next season. The Rams agree he is worth far more than his slot under the NFL’s rookie pay scale, but they haven’t been able to reach a mutually agreeable figure for the future.

Donald will start losing money next week when his game checks won’t arrive.

"We have definitely tried to come up with creative scenarios to get this done," Snead said.

Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson knows quite a bit about holdouts. The Hall of Famer signed a one-day contract and retired with the Rams on Tuesday, and he expressed empathy for both Donald and the Rams.

"When I held out, it was no fun," Dickerson said. "I’m sure it’s not fun for Aaron Donald. … I’ve been in Aaron Donald’s shoes. He wants to come back here very badly. Trust me, I know how a football player thinks. You want to get paid, because you do it for a living. This is his job. I know he’s not trying to be selfish with his football team, but like anything else, he has to take care of him. And also the team has to move forward, too."