Despite retirement rumors latching onto Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the lead up to Super Bowl LVI and following him in the wake of Los Angeles' championship victory, the league's best DT ultimately decided to come back to the blue and yellow.
Talking with NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano and Maurice Jones-Drew during Training Camp: Back Together Saturday, Donald revealed that his decision on giving it another go would not have been the same if Sean McVay did not return as head coach.
"Not at all. Not at all," Donald said when asked whether he'd be at camp if McVay had retired to work in television. "If Sean ain't here -- I told Sean when he first got here. We came up with some things early and I first told him as long as he's the head coach here, I want to continue to build my legacy with him. As long as he's here and I got the ability to still play at a high level, I'm going to be here. When he's gone and it's all said and done, that probably will be when I'm hanging it up, too."
The legacy built thus far between McVay and Donald has been nothing short of exemplary. McVay assumed head coaching duties of the Rams in 2017 during Donald's fourth season as a pro.
Since then, Donald has individually won three AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, compiled 70 sacks and forced 19 fumbles. He's been far and away the most dominant pass-rushing tackle, and he currently ranks second behind T.J. Watt (72) in sacks since 2017.
McVay has earned his accolades as well, winning AP NFL Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm.
As a team, the Rams have won 55 regular-season games, captured three NFC West titles, reached two Super Bowls and won one during the McVay-Donald era.
By June, both McVay and Donald were all-in on 2022, with the Rams star DT agreeing to a restructured contract that guaranteed him $65 million over the next two seasons and $95 million through 2024.
Their fates no longer in the balance, the two juggernauts of their sport are now intent on defending as champions.
"It's always going to be motivation to do everything you can to get back," Donald said. "That's the ultimate goal. That's what you work for. When you're grinding and out here working right now, that's in the back of your mind. To try to do everything you can to have a great season and try to be the last team standing."
The Rams will be a threat to outlast every other team in the NFL for as long as McVay and Donald are in town.
After that? Perhaps the head coach and defensive tackle will venture into the realm of TV together.
"I want to join The Rock," Donald jokingly told Siciliano at the end of his interview. "I want to be an actor."
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