IRVINE — First the dark clouds rolled in. Then the rain started. Off in the distance, the sound of thunder erupted to the west of the Rams practice field at UC Irvine. And finally, the unmistakable jolt of a lightning bolt to the north.
The Rams’ first day in full pads was finished soon after, halted by Coach Sean McVay’s concern for whatever potential havoc the looming storm might wreak on his young football team. So he hastily ordered his players off the field, sending them to the safety and comfort of their locker room before heading to the dining hall for a quick bite to eat and then some early-evening team meetings.
Beyond that, beds and a good night’s sleep beckoned.
The reality is damage had already been done on Tuesday. In spite of McVay’s careful precautions and his overly protective reaction to a storm that dissipated before ever reaching the Rams practice field.
Key defensive tackle Dominique Easley was taken by cart to the locker room after suffering a leg injury during full-contact 11-on-11 drills. His trek from the field to the sideline was with the help of two trainers tucked under each arm, unable to make it there on his own.
He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday night. The Rams are holding their breath, especially with two ACL tears in Easley’s recent past
He isn’t an irreplaceable piece in the way an Alec Ogletree is, but he’s a productive rotation player who took advantage of the opportunity the Rams gave him last year after getting kicked to the curb by the Patriots. He had 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season and was eyeing an even bigger role this year, but all that remains in doubt now pending the seriousness of his injury.
But this isn’t just about Easley, now is it?
Almost from the moment the fourth-year veteran fell to the ground in obvious pain the whispers began swirling through the Rams’ large training camp complex.
The sentiment was obvious: So what’s really going on with Aaron Donald?
Nothing like an unfortunate injury to draw attention to a holdout involving not only the team’s top overall player, but the best defensive tackle in the league and quite possibly the best defensive player overall.
It’s been five days since Donald planted his feet in the ground in protest of the state of negotiations on a new contract. Four practices have now come and gone – and one key player has gone down – with Donald still holed up somewhere. He’s waiting, presumably, to sign an acceptable deal or…