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Aaron Donald absent from Los Angeles Rams voluntary workouts

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — So much is different about the Los Angeles Rams these days. They’re coming off their first playoff appearance in 13 years, with a star-studded roster that now rivals any in the NFL, and the expectations are greater than they have been in more than a decade. The city is buzzing, the players are excited.

But one key similarity remains: Aaron Donald is absent.

Donald didn’t attend the start of the Rams’ offseason program on Monday, as was the case last spring. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still looking for a new contract, one that would make him one of the game’s highest-paid players. Now Donald is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, with no interest in showing up without a more lucrative deal.

“What I think we feel good about is the dialogue that has existed,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after his team’s workout. “We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal. With respect to Aaron, we feel really good about where we’re at with that dialogue. This is a voluntary offseason program. You know he’s a guy that’s going to work hard on his off time, and that’s kind of where we’re at. We feel good about everything that’s going on with that.”

Donald, who remains in Pittsburgh, is set to make $6.89 million in what constitutes the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Rams can then keep him for up to three additional years with the franchise tag, but they have expressed a desire to sign Donald long term dating back to last year’s scouting combine.

At this year’s combine, Rams general manager Les Snead said he and Donald’s CAA-based representatives “came up with a nice timeline” for negotiations, a process that might pick up after the draft. The Rams have since taken up almost all of their cap space by adding cornerback Aqib Talib, interior lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But Snead recently said that “none of it affects Aaron.”

Signing Donald to a long-term deal might actually give the Rams more space under this year’s salary cap, because the signing bonus is prorated for the life of the contract and would allow them to lower his 2018 base salary.

The Rams and Donald might be at a better place now, which might be evidenced by their exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Donald’s hometown for their “Behind The Grind” documentary series. Donald likes playing for McVay and is excited about the direction of the team. The Rams, meanwhile, would be more willing to pay Donald now because he’s closer to free agency.

“I think the best thing that you have going is now there’s been a year of working together,” McVay said. “There’s a rapport; there’s a relationship that’s been established, and we’re in constant dialogue and communication. When this happened last year, we weren’t really involved in much communication between myself and Aaron. I think you feel good about at least knowing where he’s at.”

Locking Donald up may require at least $80 million guaranteed and an average yearly salary of more than $20 million.

Donald, Cooks and safety Lamarcus Joyner, who signed his franchise tag prior to Monday’s workout, can all be unrestricted free agents next offseason. The Rams would ideally sign all of them to long-term deals, though they face a July 16 deadline with Joyner.

Next year, their star running back, Todd Gurley, will be on the last year of his rookie contract, and the Rams might have to seriously consider a long-term deal for him, too. Gurley, represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, is now in the same situation Donald was in last year. But he didn’t give much thought to staying away from the team.

Asked if he would like to start contract negotiations now, Gurley smiled wide.

“I think anyone would love to talk about contract situations.”

Offseason workouts are voluntary under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players can only be fined for skipping the mandatory veteran minicamp, which for the Rams takes place June 12 to 14. Donald showed up to last year’s minicamp, but didn’t participate in any of the team activities. He then skipped all of training camp and the preseason schedule, staying away from the team until the day before the season opener.

Donald now has a much better feel for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, but his absence keeps the team from figuring out how Donald, Suh and Michael Brockers will work together on the same defensive line.

“I mean, we’ve dealt with it before, and we also know that it’s a business,” Brockers said. “You have the best defensive tackle in the league right now going through contract situations. I’ll kind of just leave it at that. I don’t really want to talk about if he’s here, if he’s not here. We obviously know that he’s putting in the work to get back in shape.”

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Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton expected to play vs. Buffalo Bills

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton was not listed on the injury report Friday and is expected to play against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, barring a setback with his hamstring.

Hilton suffered hamstring and chest injuries in a Week 4 overtime loss to Houston that caused him to miss games against the Patriots and Jets. He was a full participant in practice Wednesday and listed as a limited participant Thursday.

“[My] less [than 100 percent] is better than a lot of people’s [100 percent],” Hilton said earlier this week.

The Colts (1-5) have missed Hilton, who has 21 receptions for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, as they have 15 dropped passes over the past three games.

In other injury news, coach Frank Reich has ruled out defensive lineman Denico Autry, tight end Jack Doyle, safety Clayton Geathers, receiver Ryan Grant and running back Robert Turbin for Sunday’s game.

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Myles Garrett of Cleveland Browns complains about officiating after bad calls

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BEREA, Ohio — Browns defensive end Myles Garrett roughed up NFL officials.

The No. 1 overall pick unloaded on them Friday, criticizing them for several calls that have gone against Cleveland in recent weeks and swung momentum in their games.

“Do your job just like we need to do our job,” Garrett said. “If it’s holding, call holding. If it’s a false start, false start, whether it’s us or them.”

Garrett spoke out unafraid of any consequences from the league, which is sensitive about players criticizing its officiating crews.

“If I get fined, so be it,” he said. “Something needs to be said. If it keeps on going this way, this route, where it seems like we keep on getting the short stick.”

Garrett has issues with a number of calls, but he was particularly peeved about a play in the second quarter of last Sunday’s 38-14 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

With the Chargers driving, Los Angeles left tackle Russell Okung clearly moved and dropped into pass protection before the ball was snapped. Garrett stopped rushing Okung, and several other players slowed in anticipation of a whistle. But nothing was called, the play continued and Philip Rivers threw a 29-yard touchdown pass.

So what should have been a false start instead became a touchdown.

“It was so obvious,” Garrett said. “To my mind, he’s moved, nobody else has moved and the ball hasn’t moved, so it’s kinda textbook. The flag should be up. I don’t understand how you don’t see it. That’s his job is to look down the line and see when people are jumping offside or false starting, but I’ve got to keep on finishing the play.”

And while the score put the Chargers up by 18 in a game they’d win by 24, Garrett said a different outcome on the play could have changed things.

“Momentum matters in the game,” he said. “No doubt. And a six-point turnaround, a seven-point turnaround like that where it could’ve been a sack or maybe a forced fumble if you keep on playing, or just a no play at all, to a touchdown, that’s a huge difference. There were a couple missed calls like that, and that’s not on Okung, he’s just doing his job.

“It’s on the ref and to him to have that kind of integrity to call that play when it comes.”

Garrett also referenced the Sept. 30 game at Oakland when a strip sack of Derek Carr was nullified by a quick whistle. The Browns scooped the apparent fumble and were running for a TD when the officials ruled Carr was in the grasp.

NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron later acknowledged the crew made the wrong call.

Garrett said there were other instances, and he just wants there to be fairness.

“If it’s holding for them, if they’re grabbing us, if they’re turning us, if they’re trying to pull us out of a gap whether it’s a run play or a pass play, it needs to be called,” he said. “There’s no excuse for us. We need to get their hands off of us and we need to play ball, because we know they’re not going to get those kind of calls, but at the end of the day, if they see it, they need to pull the flag out.

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Week 7 NFL betting nuggets to know for every game

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Last week’s trends came through, with the Pittsburgh Steelers winning outright as an underdog in Cincinnati.

This week, the trends point to a couple of home underdogs — the Chicago Bears and New York Jets — continuing their success in this spot. The trends also call for a Dallas Cowboys upset win in Washington.

Here are the rest of the trends that should help you in betting the NFL this weekend.

All lines are courtesy of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.


Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers (-7, 45.5) — 9:30 a.m. ET (London)

  • The Titans are 4-1 ATS with three outright wins in their past five games as an underdog of more than a field goal.

  • The Chargers are 6-16-1 ATS in their past 23 games as a favorite of more than a field goal.

New England Patriots (-3, 49) at Chicago Bears — 1 p.m. ET

  • The Bears are 8-2-1 ATS with five outright wins in their past 11 games as a home underdog.

  • The Bears are 4-1 ATS and 4-1 SU in their past five games against AFC teams.

  • The under is 15-5 in the Patriots’ past 20 road games.

Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5, 50) — 1 p.m. ET

  • Jameis Winston is 3-9 ATS with seven outright losses in 12 career starts as a favorite.

  • The Browns are 4-1 ATS in their past five games as an underdog.

  • The over is 6-0 in the Buccaneers’ past six games.

Detroit Lions (-3, 46.5) at Miami Dolphins — 1 p.m. ET

  • The over is 12-3 in the Dolphins’ past 15 home games played in Miami.

  • The Dolphins are 7-3-1 ATS with seven outright wins in their past 11 games as a home underdog in Miami.

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5, 45) — 1 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts (-7.5, 42.5) — 1 p.m. ET

  • This will mark the first time the Colts are favored by at least 7 points since 2014. Andrew Luck is 6-2 ATS in eight career starts when favored by at least a touchdown, including five straight covers.

Minnesota Vikings (-3.5, 46) at New York Jets — 1 p.m. ET

  • The Jets are 8-1-1 ATS with six outright wins in their past 10 games as a home underdog.

  • Kirk Cousins is 0-3 ATS with two outright losses and a tie in his three starts as a road favorite over the past two seasons.

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5, 41.5) — 1 p.m. ET

New Orleans Saints at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5, 49.5) — 4:05 p.m. ET

  • The Ravens are 3-0-1 ATS and 4-0 SU in their past four home games as a favorite of 3 points or less. Baltimore has an average margin of victory of 18.3 PPG in those four wins.

  • The over is 7-2 ATS in the Saints’ past nine games as an underdog.

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-1.5, 41.5) — 4:25 p.m. ET

  • The Cowboys are 12-3 ATS with 11 outright wins in their past 15 games as an underdog against the Redskins.

  • The underdog is 12-4 ATS in the past 16 meetings between these NFC East rivals.

  • Dak Prescott is 3-1 ATS and 4-0 SU in four career starts against the Redskins.

  • The over is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings between these rivals.

Los Angeles Rams (-9.5, 52) at San Francisco 49ers — 4:25 p.m. ET

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5, 58.5) — 8:20 p.m. ET

  • Over the past 30 seasons, there have been 13 games that closed with an over/under of at least 58. The over is 9-3-1 in those 13 games.

  • The Bengals are 7-2 ATS with five outright wins in their past nine games as an underdog.

New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (-4, 54) — 8:15 p.m. ET (Monday)

  • The over is 16-6 in the Falcons’ past 22 home games, including 4-0 this season.

  • The over is 9-2 in the 11 games with an over/under above 52 this season.

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