Even at 31, Rams' chiseled Aaron Donald flexes his body of work at training camp

IRVNE, CA - JULY 24, 2022: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald changes his cleats during training camp at UC Irvine on July 24, 2022 in Irvine, California.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald changes his cleats during training camp at UC Irvine. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Aaron Donald’s training camp regimen includes scheduled days off, a perk the three-time NFL defensive player of the year earned with play that will guarantee him a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Rams defensive lineman, however, left no doubt Friday about his conditioning.

Donald, never shy about showing off his chiseled physique, emerged from the weight room at UC Irvine and addressed reporters and camera operators while shirtless.

Is it tougher to get in shape at age 31 than it was at 23?

“I think it’s a little easier now,” he said, “because I kind of grew into my body, understand my body and understand what I can do and can’t do.”

Donald, a seven-time All-Pro, clinched the Rams’ 23-20 Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals by pressuring quarterback Joe Burrow into a desperation toss with less than a minute left.

Donald dropped hints that he might retire, and the Rams responded by awarding him a contract extension that includes $65 million in guarantees the next two seasons and $95 million through 2024. He is the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history.

Second-year defensive coordinator Raheem Morris learned how to operate with Donald during the run-up to the 2021 season.

“He is all business all the time until he decides to let it off a little bit,” Morris said. “And when he lets it off, that's when you know you got him and that's when you know he's in his best spot that he could possibly be.”

Donald remains the centerpiece of a defense that already included three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey before the offseason addition of six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Donald has amassed 98 sacks in regular-season games, six in the playoffs.

He said Friday that he was healthy, strong and “getting into the groove of things” as the Rams look toward their Sept. 8 opener against the Buffalo Bills.

The Rams have four more workouts at UC Irvine before returning to their Thousand Oaks facility late next week. Donald will continue to work on his moves, technique and remaining healthy and strong.

“Learning, studying myself, and just trying to find ways to improve anyway I can,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.