Rams’ head coach Sean McVay reveals he ‘had a sense’ Aaron Donald was going to retire

News of Aaron Donald’s retirement may have come as a shock to many, but not to his head coach.

During the NFL coaches’ breakfast on Tuesday at the annual league meetings, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay opened up about the defensive tackle’s decision to hang up the pads and revealed he had a feeling.

“We have such a good relationship, I knew the whole year. Or, at least I had a sense.”

The Rams selected Donald with the No. 13 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and the eight-time All-Pro spent his entire 10-year career with the team. Following the Rams’ 2021 season, which culminated with the Super Bowl LVI victory, McVay admits there was a mutual understanding between him and Donald about his future. 

“There was kind of an unspoken understanding — even when we convinced him to come back after we won the Super Bowl in ‘21, there was kind of always an understanding that it would be a couple of years.”

In 2022, the ten-time Pro Bowler suffered an ankle sprain in Week 13 which forced him to miss the team’s final six games of the season. In 2023, McVay said he could see Donald “savoring certain moments.” 

“He had a real joy,” McVay said. “You just saw things where you could really tell he was taking it all in.”

The final game of Donald’s NFL career was a wild-card loss to Detroit in January. McVay says he waited for Donald to exit the locker room after the game, and the inevitable conversation ensued. 

“I said to him, ‘this is it,'” McVay recalled, “and he said, ‘yeah, this is it.'”

The two men spoke for a long time the following day, McVay said, and on March 15 the official announcement was made.

“We are so grateful for everything that he has done,” McVay continued. “He has changed my life. And I am forever indebted to him.”

Donald posted six 10-plus sack seasons, including leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks in 2018. He was also the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

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