THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Defensive tackle Aaron Donald says he’s feeling 100% and is ready for the challenges that await the Los Angeles Rams following an exodus of defensive playmakers over the offseason.
Donald said he underwent surgery to repair his left high ankle sprain — which he suffered in Week 13 and effectively ended his 2022 season — and that the recovery from that procedure has been a “long process.”
“It was different,” said Donald, who previously had never missed a game because of injury in nine NFL seasons. “But I’m at 100% now, so that’s all that matters. Feeling good, able to do everything I need to do to get myself to where I need to be.”
He missed the final six games of a 5-12 season that has resulted in multiple changes to the organization, including the departures of key defensive playmakers Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner and Leonard Floyd — all moves made in effort to clear salary cap space for a rebuild.
Despite contemplating retirement amid a 2021 run to Super Bowl LVI, Donald, who turns 32 this month, said retirement was “not really” something he considered this offseason.
“Honestly, you never want to end your career the way how it was last year,” said Donald, who had a career-low five sacks. “So it never really crossed my mind. So I was just trying to do everything I can to get myself healthy to be here today.”
General manager Les Snead said a conversation was had with Donald last month to share the Rams’ vision for the future, which included the addition of 14 players via the draft and another 24 undrafted free agents.
“We were talking about, ‘Hey, this is kind of the blueprint: We might have to play with some younger players, less experienced players on defense, per se,'” Snead said. “And you know what was awesome? He looked you in the eye and said, ‘Here’s the deal. … I’m good. Just make sure they care.'”
The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday said that he would miss the players who have moved on but emphasized that change is part of the business.
“I can’t control that,” Donald said. “Obviously, I made a commitment to this organization and do everything I can to do my part. Obviously, it is different than what we’ve seen in the past few years, but a lot of young guys will have to step up. I have to be a huge part to help us have success. It’s going to be a long journey, but you just got to stay focused on what you need to focus on and just continue to work.”
Donald also expressed an eagerness to welcome any young additions who possessed a “hungry” mindset to contribute and work.
“Me, personally, as a football player, as a competitor,” Donald said, “I can work with that.”