The day should have been all about new head coach Sean McVay officially putting his imprint on the Rams and the progress of second-year quarterback Jared Goff and all those shiny new pieces added through the draft and free agency.
But when the Rams opened training camp Saturday at UC Irvine, the focus was instead on the very important piece to their puzzle that wasn’t there and the lock down cornerback who showed up in mind but perhaps not spirit.
That would be All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The former is officially a camp hold out mired in a contract dispute while the later has sized up his own contract situation and decided his Rams future is rapidly coming to an end.
And in Johnson’s case, he wasn’t shy Saturday about saying so out loud.
It didn’t exactly turn the bright blue skies hovering over UC Irvine ugly. But the Rams obviously have two tenuous situations on their hands that need attending and managing. And if they don’t do it deftly, they could pay a steep price.
The absence of Donald wasn’t a major jolt, of course. His hold out was established the day before when he didn’t report with the rest of the Rams veterans, the result of months of contract talks that haven’t yet yielded an acceptable new contract. And while there is strong indication both the club and player are determined to find the common ground necessary to keep Donald in the Rams fold for a very long time, there are enough complicated dynamics and nuances involved in this kind mega NFL contract that the finish line may not come into focus anytime soon.
Especially with the situation coming to a head a bit earlier than anticipated. Donald still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, but he’s played so above and beyond the value of the contract over his first three seasons he earned a bigger payday sooner than anyone originally imagined.
Still, there doesn’t appear any panic that something won’t eventually get done.
Johnson, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated and potentially dangerous.
The two-year contract dance he’s done with the Rams hasn’t resulted in the long-term marriage he hoped for. And just as he played last year under the franchise tag distinction he’ll do so again this year.
He’s hardly happy with the prospect, making it abundantly clear Saturday he desperately wanted a long-term deal with the Rams.
“I wanted it big time,” Johnson said.
The lack of securing one…