The incident occurred two weeks ago at a joint practice, not in a game, so Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald is preparing without restraint for the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night at SoFi Stadium.
On Monday, Donald answered questions from beat reporters for the first time since an Aug. 25 brawl between the Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals that ended the second of two joint practices between last season’s Super Bowl opponents.
A video of the melee shows a helmet being swung. The video also shows Donald falling to the ground with a Bengals helmet in hand.
The NFL charges teams with responsibility for disciplining, or not disciplining, players for their actions at practices. Rams coach Sean McVay has said that Donald was disciplined internally but offered no other details.
When asked to explain what happened during the brawl — and about a conversation with McVay — Donald did not offer any specifics.
“I’m happy nobody got hurt in the practice and whatever but my main focus is Thursday night against Buffalo,” Donald said.
Donald acknowledged that swinging helmets could create a dangerous situation.
“For sure,” he said. “Everybody protected each other, everybody got out of the situation clean, healthy — that’s what mattered.”
Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, indicated that he was not bothered by outside criticism.
“I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on outside my world,” he said.
McVay was not scheduled to speak with reporters Monday. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said he had spoken with Donald.
“It's making sure that we don't cross the lines when it's time, when the games come down,” Morris said.
Does swinging a helmet cross that line?
“You don’t want to swing a helmet ever, just at anybody in general,” Morris said. “But there’s been some helmets ripped off at times.
“You never ever want to do those things. You don’t want to have that on your resume. You don’t want to have that on paper. You don’t want to have that on a look.
“But at the same time, those things happen in practices. They’re mistakes, they’re errors and they’re correctable.”
After the Rams defeated the Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI, Donald hinted at retirement. The team responded by giving him a massive raise that makes him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history. He begins his ninth NFL season with 98 career sacks.
Donald, a seven-time All-Pro, is a cornerstone of a Rams defense that also includes six-time All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
The Bills are led by quarterback Josh Allen. They are regarded as a favorite to win the AFC and advance to the Super Bowl.
The Bills also feature veteran outside linebacker Von Miller, who helped lead the Rams to their Super Bowl victory. The Rams attempted to re-sign Miller, but the Bills offered him a contract that includes nearly $51.5 million in guarantees, according to overthecap.com.
Donald credited Miller for helping him become a more vocal leader, especially during a playoff run that included victories over the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers and Bengals.
“He challenged me with some things as a vocal leader, and I took that to heart and I stepped up when I needed to,” Donald said. “I always will respect and love Von for that. We created some special things.
“We miss him, but he’s on the opposite [side] now, so he’s the enemy.”
Receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice and was the only player listed on the Rams’ injury report. … Bills offensive lineman Tommy Doyle (foot) and tight end Quintin Morris (hamstring) did not practice.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.