Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald spoke to reporters on Monday, for the first time since an ugly incident during a joint practice with the Bengals that had Donald swinging orange helmets, one in each hand.
He didn’t have anything more to say than he did during last week’s media tour. (Which wasn’t very much.)
“My main focus is Buffalo right now,” Donald said. “I’m happy nobody got hurt in the practice, but my main focus is Thursday night against Buffalo right now.”
He was asked whether he understands it could have been a dangerous situation.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “Everybody protected each other, everybody got out of the situation clean, healthy. So that’s what matters. [I’m] ready for Week One.”
But Donald wasn’t protecting anyone when he was slamming helmets against them. He was on the offensive, and he’s lucky he didn’t seriously harm someone, or worse.
Donald also was reminded that he’s a role model, and he was asked if he heard from his kids about the situation.
“My kids didn’t see,” he said.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris also met with reporters on Monday. He was a bit more talkative, but the underlying message from the entire organization is the same — it was a practice, no one got hurt, and what do you expect us to do when the guy who did it is Aaron Donald?
“The greatest thing about it is our guys know the difference between practice and the games,” Morris said. “It’s really important to know that. We like to practice like pros, like professionals, practice how we play. The whole thing with it is you never let anybody cross the line. When things cross the line, sometimes things get out of the way. The team disciplined him internally without a doubt. He had a conversation with Sean [McVay]. We take all those things very seriously. [Donald] is very close to the vest kind of guy. I just supported everything that we did with Sean, [Donald] and everything that we had to do to contribute. For me, talking to him is just making sure that we don’t cross the lines when the games go down. That’s my role and responsibility and all that stuff. I think we kind of understand that. He’s been a pro for a long time. I think our young guys will understand that. I think he’s respected so much in our locker room and in locker rooms across the league. I think that we all know what that looks like.”
We all definitely know what it looks like when he blows a fuse in practice. And, frankly, he has blown that same fuse more than a few times during games. Though not to the same extent, Donald has been chippy to the point of being on the wrong side of the line a time or two during his career. His greatness usually gets him a pass.
Morris seemed to realize that Donald clearly crossed the line, even if Morris wouldn’t or couldn’t say it as bluntly as it needed to be said.
“You don’t want to swing a helmet ever, just at anybody in general, but there’s been some helmets ripped off at times,” Morris said. “You never ever want to do those things. You don’t want to have that on the resume. You don’t want to have that on paper. You don’t want to have that on a look. But at the same time, those things happen in practices. They’re mistakes, they’re errors and they’re correctable when it happens at these times.”
A missed assignment is a mistake. A dropped pass is a mistake. A bad read by the quarterback is a mistake. Donald allowed his anger to compel him to do something that should never happen, anywhere. Practice, game, locker room, parking lot. It falls beyond the limits of anything that ever should be deemed acceptable in football, and it’s bullshit (frankly) that the Rams are tiptoeing around it in the name of having him available for Week One against the Bills.
He shouldn’t have been “talked to,” or whatever they did to discipline. (Since they won’t say what they did, we’ll assume they didn’t do much.) He should have been suspended. Everybody knows it. The Rams surely do, too. That’s the only way to make sure every player knows that certain lines can’t be crossed, regardless of whatever lame excuse the player’s team may offer to justify not taking the action that absolutely should have been taken.
The message is simple, and clear as crystal. Certain players are good enough to get away with this. As a result, certain players will do it, from time to time. And when someone ends up with a fractured skull after getting whacked over the head with a helmet swung by a player who believes he’s sufficiently important to the team to not be properly punished for doing it, no one should act surprised.