While there may have been some speculation early in the week on the subject, head coach Sean McVay made it official on Friday: defensive tackle Aaron Donald will start in Sunday’s game against Washington.
“He was doing everything he could while not being here to make sure that when this opportunity presented itself, he would be ready to go, and help his teammates out, and try to be a positive thing that helps us win football games,” McVay said. “And that’s certainly what he’s done this week. Looking forward to seeing him get out there and compete with his teammates on Sunday.”
Donald reported to the Rams on Saturday and passed his physical. The defensive tackle said earlier in the week that he felt like he was in good shape, but acknowledged the difference between training and practicing with pads.
“I worked out a lot,” Donald said on Wednesday. “I’m in great shape, but [there’s] a difference from running around and then having to be the football field. So, just going day-by-day here and just seeing how I feel as the week goes on.”
Since then, McVay said Donald has gone through the week and looked like his old self. That’s likely what gave McVay the comfort level to announce Donald as a starter on Friday.
“I think in terms of what I’ve always thought about Aaron, just watching him from afar in the little bit of exposure I’ve had from him, he came in in good shape. He looks good, looks fresh, looks like the Aaron Donald that you guys are accustomed to seeing. And that’s kind of what I expected, because you know he’s a guy that’s going to take great care of himself when he’s away. He’s working hard.”
How much Donald plays, however, hasn’t been worked out quite yet.
“As far as how we approach that game, that’s something that we’ll figure out in the next 48 hours. But he’s going to go unless something changes [between now and] then,” McVay said. “The snap count and how many plays he plays is yet to be determined.”
Earlier this week, McVay said general manager Les Snead and his staff had looked at players in similar situations and the amount of snaps the individuals had played in a first game back.
“[Snead’s] got a handful of guys that do a great job with the analytics where guys that have been on the holdout, that have come back, what are the amount of snaps that they’ve played? So, these are certainly things that we don’t take lightly,” McVay said on Wednesday. “We want to be very smart with Aaron in how we progress him back in, while being aware that each player has his own individual circumstance that dictates that response, whatever we decide to do.”
Sunday’s matchup against Washington kicks off at 1:25 p.m. PT at the Coliseum.