Before winning Super Bowl LVI, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was contemplating retirement.
But after earning his ring, the three-time AP defensive player of the year elected to come back for 2022. Los Angeles also made it worth his while with a new contract that gave him a significant raise.
Then 2022 happened, which did not go as planned for anyone on the Rams. Donald suffered an ankle injury that limited him to just 11 games. He had not missed a game for injury in his career to that point.
But even as the Rams underwent a significant roster overhaul — gone are former veteran stars like Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, and Leonard Floyd — Donald said on Wednesday that he wasn’t considering retirement this offseason.
“Not really, honestly. You never want to end your career the way it was last year,” Donald said in a Wednesday press conference. “So, it never really crossed my mind. I was just trying to do everything I could to get myself healthy to be here today.”
Donald did confirm he underwent offseason surgery on his ankle but feels “100 percent” now. And he’s looking toward leading what’s going to be a young Rams defense in 2023.
“At times, I feel like I’m going to need to be [more vocal],” Donald said. “Obviously, you don’t have a Bobby Wagner or Jalen to do it. But, again, you’ve got a guy like Ernest who’s going to step up and play that leadership role well, you’ve got [Jordan] Fuller out there. So, there’s guys that are young, but on this team, they’re no longer young. It’s time to step up and be a leader as well.
“So, you’ve just got to trust that those guys are going to be there to speak up and motivate me, too. We all need it – no matter how long you’ve been playing this game, or how much success you’ve had in it. We all need somebody to push you at times. If I’m slacking, I want them to let me know I’m slacking so I can pick it up and I can get better. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about holding each other accountable and pushing each other.”
With J.J. Watt’s retirement, Donald is No. 5 on the active list with 103.0 career sacks.