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Aaron Donald absent from Los Angeles Rams voluntary workouts



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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Kevin Dodd of Tennessee Titans placed on reserve did not report list after not reporting for training camp



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kevin Dodd‘s puzzling offseason continued Sunday when he did not report for Titans training camp. He was placed on the reserve/did not report list.

Right tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Phillip Supernaw were placed on the physically unable to perform list. Linebacker Rashaan Evans and receiver Michael Campanaro were placed on the non-football illness list. Defensive tackle Mike Ramsay was placed on the non-football injury list.

Dodd, a 2016 second-round pick, missed all of voluntary offseason workouts before being a limited participant during mandatory minicamp. He never gave a reason for his absence and declined to answer questions.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel wanted to give Dodd a clean slate after two disappointing seasons to start his NFL career. Injuries derailed his rookie season, but he hasn’t shown much when he has played. A 6-foot-5, 280-pound outside linebacker, he has one sack and 12 tackles in 18 games.

The Titans drafted Harold Landry in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft to give them much-needed depth in their pass rush, but as of earlier this offseason there was still hope within the organization that Dodd could be a contributor. Dodd hasn’t helped his cause.

Conklin is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the Titans’ Jan. 13 divisional playoff loss to the Patriots. He won’t be on the field to start training camp, and the optimistic goal is to try to get him back by Week 1. Conklin said he lost weight and attacked his rehab without any setbacks, but the Titans may need to prepare as if they will be without him to start the season.

Veteran reserve Dennis Kelly is expected to slide in at right tackle while Conklin recovers from his injury.

Evans’ designation isn’t expected to keep him off the field much during training camp.

Quarterbacks, rookies and players injured at the end of the June offseason program were due to report Sunday. Dodd and Conklin were included in that group. The rest of the Titans are set to report Wednesday.

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Minnesota Vikings O-line coach Tony Sparano dies at age 56



Former Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano has died at the age of 56.

Since 2016, Sparano had served as the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, who confirmed his death.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony’s presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts.”

Sparano worked for nine NFL teams in his coaching career, including coaching the Dolphins from 2008 to 2011 and serving as Oakland Raiders interim head coach in 2014. He also had stints with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers.

He had reunited with coach Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. The two coached under Bill Parcells with the Cowboys from 2003 to 2006.

Sparano was 32-41 as a head coach and took the Dolphins to his only playoff appearance during his first season in 2008.

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Mike Evans of Tampa Bay Buccaneers gives $11,000 to aid family of slain man



Mike Evans is staying true to his word to “help a lot of people” after signing an extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year.

On Saturday, he donated $11,000 to the family of Gregory Hill, who was shot and killed by a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office deputy in 2014.

Hill’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and after a two-week trial in May, a jury ruled in favor of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, saying Hill was 99 percent responsible for his death and the department 1 percent responsible. The jury awarded the family $4, $1 for each of Hill’s three children and $1 for funeral expenses. The family, however, received just 4 cents (1 percent of the $4 award).

Evans asked how he could help the family in a tweet Saturday and was directed to a GoFundMe page that was created after the verdict. Evans’ donation helped push the total raised to nearly $100,000.

When the 24-year-old wide receiver signed his five-year, $82 million extension in March, Evans said of his charity plans, “It’s hard to put into words. With my actions you’ll see it.” Last year, Evans and his wife, Ashli, also founded the Mike Evans Family Foundation, which gives scholarships to high school graduates coming from low-income situations and provides help to women and their families who are victims of domestic violence.

Gregory Hill was 30 when he was shot and killed by an officer responding to a complaint about loud music in 2014. After officers knocked on his garage and front doors, Hill opened his garage door. He was shot when he lowered the garage door and police alleged that Hill pointed a gun at the deputies. An unloaded gun was found in his pocket and tests revealed that his blood alcohol content was 0.40.

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