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Rams’ Aaron Donald wants to put the hurt on Packers

THOUSAND OAKS — Aaron Donald hasn’t missed a game because of injury in his NFL career with the Rams, and didn’t miss one in his college career at Pitt.

He doesn’t plan to start missing any now, with the Rams going into a second-round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday at Lambeau Field.

After missing a chunk of the Rams’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the defensive tackle whom Coach Sean McVay has begun to call “the Terminator” says he’ll be back.

“I feel good, I feel strong, and I’ll be ready come Saturday,” Donald said Wednesday before practice.

If it’s all true, that’s great news for the Rams’ league-leading defense, which is getting ready to face the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, led by top-rated quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

But indications are that Donald’s ribs weren’t 100% 72 hours before the 1:35 p.m. (L.A. time) kickoff.

The Rams’ practice report listed him as a non-participant in practice for the second day in a row.

Coach Sean McVay said resting Donald is about being “smart” with him, same as the team is doing while waiting to see the status of quarterback John Wolford (neck), wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee), left guard David Edwards (Achilles) and linebacker Terrell Lewis (ankle), all of whom were out of practice Wednesday.

“Unless something unforeseen happens, the Terminator will be ready,” McVay said Tuesday.

The Rams have been calling it simply a rib injury. Asked for specifics on Wednesday, Dr. Donald offered this diagnosis: “My damn side is sore. I’m good.”

He said he was able to work out in the Rams’ weight room and had “no pain.”

It wasn’t like that Saturday when Donald stayed down on a knee after hitting Russell Wilson as the Seahawks’ quarterback threw an incomplete pass in the third quarter of the Rams’ 30-20 victory. Donald clutched his right side, left the field and walked to the locker room with medical personnel. He returned to the sideline briefly but didn’t go back into the game.

Donald said Wilson fell on him, and he thought he had the wind knocked out of him.

“I was going to come back until they got that last touchdown,” Donald said of the Jared Goff-to-Robert Woods pass play that gave the Rams a 17-point lead with 4:46 to play. “That kind of put it away. It was ‘Let’s rest up for next week.’”

Donald, 29, has missed two games in his seven NFL seasons, both in 2017. He missed that year’s opener amid a contract holdout and was rested for the meaningless regular-season finale.

Seeing him injured was a shock to teammates.

“It was just like, dang! You didn’t know Superman could get hurt,” defensive end Michael Brockers said Wednesday.

The Rams will say something stronger than dang if Donald is impaired Saturday. There’s no replacing the franchise’s first six-time first-team All-Pro. That’s true even though the defense hung in there with him out, holding Seattle to a futile late touchdown, linebacker Leonard Floyd sacking Wilson twice, and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson recording season highs for defensive snaps (33%) and tackles (four).

“We’re hoping that A.D. can go,” Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said Tuesday. “But those guys know what Aaron Donald means to our defense, and that there’s a high (standard) that they have to live up to, that we all have to live up to. I thought that they did that in that last quarter and a half.”

Donald said he’s following the trainers’ program to get ready to play Saturday. He said he doesn’t know if he’ll wear special protection.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur would like to think Donald can’t play. But he isn’t getting his hopes up.

“He is a freak. He’s as good as they get. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type player,” LaFleur said. “I assume he’ll be ready to go full speed ahead.”

NOTES

The Los Angeles chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America named Aaron Donald the Rams’ Most Valuable Player and gave defensive end Michael Brockers the Good Guy Award as the Rams player most helpful to writers doing their jobs this season. … Brockers played in the win at Seattle after missing a game on the COVID-19 list. He called the experience “nerve-wracking.” “You don’t know what to expect,” Brockers said Wednesday. “I woke up that morning feeling good. After they told me I had it, then I’m thinking, Oh, am I getting hot? Every little thing you felt like, you’re like, Is that the COVID?” He said he recovered after having “not really a lot of symptoms.” …

The Rams’ injury report listed quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) as a full participant in practice for the second day in a row on Wednesday. McVay hasn’t named a starter for Saturday’s game. … Andrew Whitworth was listed as “limited” in practice. McVay said the left tackle has “soreness” in his left knee after his first game in eight weeks. … McVay on the mid-season signing of kicker Matt Gay, who is 9 for 9 on field-goal attempts and 12 for 12 on extra-point attempts in the past five games: “It’s been huge. Man, he’s Mr. Automatic as of late. … He’s done a great job and it looks like we found our guy for a long time, really for the future.” … The high temperature on Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, where the Rams practiced: 75 degrees. The high in Green Bay: 39.
 

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