Aaron Donald announces his retirement after a standout 10-year career with the Rams

LOS ANGELES — Defensive lineman Aaron Donald has announced his retirement after a standout 10-year career with the Los Angeles Rams.

The three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year made his surprising announcement on social media Friday.

The 32-year-old Donald spent his entire career with the Rams, who drafted him in the first round in 2014 out of Pitt. The Pittsburgh native was selected for 10 Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro first teams, and he won the award as the league’s top defensive player in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

“Throughout my career, I have given my everything to both mentally and physically — 365 days a year was dedicated to becoming the best possible player I could be,” Donald said in a statement. “I respected this game like no other, and I’m blessed to be able to conclude my NFL career with the same franchise that drafted me. Not many people get drafted to a team, win a world championship with that team and retire with that team. I do not, and will not, take that for granted.”

Although smaller than many top defensive tackles, Donald used his extraordinary athleticism and game savvy to wreak havoc on offenses throughout his career. He was the cornerstone of every Rams defense during his tenure, drawing habitual double-teams away from his teammates and still racking up a franchise-record 111 sacks, third in the NFL among active players.

After winning the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year award in 2014, Donald reached the peak of his stardom after the Rams franchise moved from St. Louis back to Los Angeles in 2016. He had a career-high 20 1/2 sacks in 2018 on the way to his first Super Bowl appearance under coach Sean McVay.

He then played a major role in the Rams’ run to a Super Bowl victory three years later, most famously applying the pressure that forced Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow to throw incomplete at midfield on the Bengals’ final play of Los Angeles’ 23-20 victory in Super Bowl 56.

“The great players in our league elevate the people around them, and Aaron has modeled the way for our team as long as I’ve been with the Rams,” McVay said in a statement. “He’s an elite competitor, someone who leads by example in a way that’s authentic to him, and an exceptional teammate who inspires everyone around him to be the best version of themselves.”

Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt are the only other players to win the defensive player of the year award three times.

Donald was slated to make over $34 million this season under the terms of a contract that was renegotiated nearly two years ago. Although Donald had reportedly flirted with retirement for the past two seasons in private, the Rams and Donald hadn’t publicly acknowledged his departure was a real possibility.

But over the past two months, Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator Raheem Morris left for the Atlanta Falcons’ head coaching job, and defensive line coach Eric Henderson left for a similar job at Southern California. Henderson and Donald are close friends.

“We are so grateful for Aaron’s dedication to greatness and for leading our franchise on and off the field for the past decade,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said. “He has left his mark on generations of fans and his accomplishments, coupled with his work ethic and passion, continue to inspire his teammates, coaches and athletes across the globe. It is a privilege to have witnessed one of the greatest players of all time, and we are proud that Aaron Donald will forever be part of NFL history as a member of the Rams.”

Donald had 543 career tackles, including 176 tackles for loss, and 24 forced fumbles. He had 34 tackles and six sacks in his 11 career postseason games.

Donald also was incredibly durable, missing only six games due to injury in his 10-year career — all of them late in the 2022 season when the Rams were already out of playoff contention.

Only one player is now left on the Rams’ roster who also played in St. Louis: Rob Havenstein, who is still the Rams’ starting right tackle.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL

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