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TRANSCRIPT: LA Rams HC Sean McVay 53-Man Roster, Aaron Donald Holdout Press Conference

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Here’s what the Rams’ head coach had to say as the team finalized its 53-man roster.

Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay
Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay

(On the trade for Redskins TE Derek Carrier)

“Derek is a great guy. He brings some versatility to the position. He’s familiar with a lot of the verbiage, the terminology – he can play the ‘F’ position, he can play ‘Y’ in-line. So he can do a lot of things that will complement that group. Good athlete – he will be able to contribute for (special teams coordinator John Fassel) ‘Bones’. When you lose a (TE) Temarrick Hemingway, who was going to be a big part of what we wanted to do, (Carrier) was a guy that we had potentially targeted knowing the depth that the Redskins had at that position. We feel fortunate to be able to acquire Derek. He is going to be a big help to us.”

(On if there is an update on DT Aaron Donald)

“It’s the same. The dialogue’s been good and it’s where we kind of left it off the last time that we discussed that.”

(On if he is expecting Donald at practice on Monday)

“Like I said, we’re in a situation right now where the dialogue is ongoing. I still remain very optimistic. I’m always going to maintain that positive approach and that’s where we’re at. I know that our guys are working relentlessly to try to come to this solution and like we said, the level of urgency is certainly raised as we get closer and closer to our first regular season game. But, right now there is no update – kind of still where we’re at and the dialogue is back and forth with us and Aaron’s representation.”

(On how difficult cut day can be and how the process was his first time as a head coach)

“Yeah, I felt really good about just the way that we were able to come to decisions on our entire team, both with our offensive and defensive staffs, with (GM) Les (Snead) and his staff. I feel like the communication on all levels has been very good where we’ve kind of all been on the same page. Certainly the decisions weren’t easy, but I feel like because you have some many people that are good at what they do, are able to give their insight with their previous experience, it makes it as seamless as possible. But, with regards to some of those decisions in dealing with a lot of these players, it’s tough. I couldn’t say enough about just what a class act all the guys that we dealt with where you’re delivering unfortunate information, but what a joy these guys have been to be around – I speak for all of our coaches when I say that. I think it’s a representation of the type of guys that we have in this building, both that are still here and guys that were here. It was a special group of 90 men. I thank them for what they did and it was a great opportunity to be able to work with those guys. Unfortunately, with a lot of them we had to move in different directions and then a handful of them we’ll bring back to the practice squad, but it’s never fun. I think certainly being in this role for the first time where you’re kind of the first one delivering that information, it definitely has a different feeling to it. But, as long as you deal with these guys openly and honestly and when you’re dealing with good people like we were fortunate enough to do – an unfortunate and a tough day went as well as it could of I guess is the best way to put it.”

(On if he anticipates any changes with the roster between now and Monday)

“Yeah, that’s a good question. I think really when you look at it, as we continue to get all the guys that have been waived in and Les and his staff have done a nice job kind of sorting through those things. We’ve had an eye on a handful of guys that could be subject to being released that might potentially upgrade us. We haven’t gone through that. Those are discussions that we’ll have after this and kind of watching that waiver wire and see how things shape up. Then when everything kind of gets finalized tomorrow, we’ll be able to make the decisions if we stick with the guys we do have or if we decide to kind of make some swaps. You want to be smart about it, especially kind of being mindful of having that fifth spot where you’re at in the claim order where you might be able to potentially upgrade if we feel like a guy does give us that upgrade spot at one of those positions that we’re looking at.”

(On if offensive line is a position that can potentially be upgraded)

“Really you’re looking at all positions or spots that you can potentially upgrade and it depends on who becomes available. With us right now, currently keeping eight guys on the O-line because (T) Darrell (Williams) and (T) Andrew (Donnal) – Andrew is a guy that’s played both guard and tackle. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate a lot of him, but with (C) Austin Blythe being a center, I think we feel good about those eight right now. We’ll look at the waiver wire, but certainly it’s not a knock on the eight that we do have. Really, when you look at what Andrew does provide, he hasn’t been able to practice, but this is a guy that’s played all over the line. Darrell has done a nice job at tackle and then we feel good about what Austin has done at the center position.”

(On Donnal’s status)

“He was out there today. He was able to do some team work for the first time since the injury occurred. He’s a guy that it was tough because you’d like to see him out there and get acclimated and accustomed to a lot of the new techniques that we’re implementing, different than what they had done before. I feel like right when he was kind of hitting his stride at the end of the offseason program, you started to see him get comfortable with that and then unfortunately, the knee injury occurs right at the beginning of camp. But, Andrew is a guy that’s played a lot of football. A very smart player and that versatility is valuable, especially when you are talking about typically having seven guys active on game day and when you’ve got a guy that can fill a lot of needs they bring value to the team for sure.”

(On if CB Michael Jordan did not make the active roster because of the numbers at that position)

“I think so. I think really when you look at our secondary as a whole, both the corner and the safety position, it’s as deep a group as I’ve ever been around where you feel really good about the room from top to bottom. When you keep six safeties on the active roster and five corners, not to mention that when (CB) Troy Hill gets back you’re talking about potentially 12 DBs. But ‘Mike J’ is a guy that did a lot of good things. He got his hands on the ball, made some plays, closed a couple games out, but I think he’s a guy that can play in this league. I think it was more of a situation where we had such good depth at that positon and it became more of a numbers game, but I think Michael Jordan is definitely capable and I think he’ll get a shot somewhere.”

(On how the conversation went with TE Cory Harkey being released)

“Well, I think you guys know what a class act he is, what he’s meant to this organization. That was certainly a difficult discussion because of the type of player, the type of person he is, but like you guys would expect, what a class act, what a great human being. A good leader, kind of stands for all the right types of things in terms of what you’re looking for, for a guy to represent the organization the right way. That’s what he’s done over the last handful of years. He would still be on this team right now if it weren’t for the Derek Carrier trade where we were able to acquire Derek. So, it certainly wasn’t an easy discussion, but I wish nothing but the best for Cory and can’t say enough things about what he represents in terms of the toughness, the leadership, the character, all those good things that you want your players to embody, that’s what Cory Harkey is and that’s what he stands for. I think very highly of Cory.”

(On if he feels like he ever really got a chance to get a look at WR Nelson Spruce due to his injuries)

“It’s one of those situations when you talk to Nelson today, you say it’s unfortunate because he’s a good football player, he’s got great instincts, good, aggressive hands. Unfortunately, the injuries really kept him out of chances to really compete for a roster spot and it’s unfortunate. We’re hopeful that Nelson will get a spot and get a chance to compete somewhere else. We wish him nothing but the best, but again, that’s another position like you talk about the secondary with looking at some of the guys that we were able to acquire through free agency or a trade and then the two guys we added through the draft. We feel really good about the depth at the receiver positon. Just like at corner, you’re going to get (WR) Mike Thomas back after Week 4 and potentially some tough decisions to be made there, but we have six guys going into this season that you feel really good about where you have a chance to keep guys fresh because they’re interchangeable because you truly have confidence in all six of those guys if they’re targeted to be able to make the play.”

(On if he is committed to just going with QB Jared Goff and QB Sean Mannion and letting go of QB Dan Orlovsky)

“I think Dan – the value that Dan had for those guys especially being aware of how young Jared and Sean both are, I thought Dan was a great example of kind of providing a mentorship role for them. Being around some great players and then him having the experience that he’s had. I thought he was really helpful to those guys. Dan’s definitely a possible guy that we’ll bring back on this roster, so by no means does that mean that we couldn’t see him Week 2. I think very highly of Dan. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Dan from other people in the coaching world that have been with him and he certainly lived up to that reputation. He’s definitely a guy that could be a possibility for us to bring back in Week 2.”

(On what RB Justin Davis showed him to earn a spot on the active roster)

“I think, probably, the same things you guys noticed. He’s an explosive back that, I think he got better as the preseason progressed, really a conscientious player – was really impressed with just the maturity and growth in a short amount of time. I saw some things that improved in terms of his technique in the protection element. Obviously, when the ball’s in his hands and he puts his foot in the ground and decides to get vertical – you see an explosion and I think he’s a nice change-of-pace back. And when you look at really, I think (RB) Todd’s (Gurley) kind of that complete all-around back that can do a little bit of everything. You guys know how highly I think about Todd. Then I think (RB) Malcolm (Brown) is a nice guy that can kind of provide some carries in the first and second-down role. Then, really, when you look at what Justin does bring, if you’re looking for that change of pace back, very similar to the reason that we liked (RB) Lance Dunbar so much – that’s kind of what Justin has provided. We’re excited about Justin. We know that as a rookie some of the things that we’re going to ask him to do, it’ll be something that we’ll just take little steps at a time. Justin definitely earned his spot on this roster and we’ve been pleased with what he’s done throughout the preseason.”

(On if WR Tavon Austin will be ready for Week 1)

“He is, that’s the plan. Unless something changes, he’ll be our punt returner. He’s going to be a guy...not sure if you guys saw him moving around before the Green Bay game just getting a workout in. I asked him, “How he felt today? Yeah, I feel okay.’ I said, ‘Well if that’s how okay feels that’s great news for us, man.’ He looked pretty good. He looks healthy. He looks explosive and he looks like the Tavon Austin that we’re accustomed to seeing.”

(On how he feels about the defensive line outside of DTs Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers)

“I think (Defensive Line) coach (Bill) Johnson’s done a nice job developing some depth. I think when you really look at it – having those guys that you feel good about provides an opportunity to move guys around in a variety of roles based on the package that we’re playing. We’ll do some different things with our rush packages. When you’ve got guys that you feel like you can play, it allows them to be interchangeable and keep those guys fresh. We know what kind of special rusher (OLB) Robert Quinn is. You feel really good about (OLB) Connor Barwin. But what I think what’s been nice is you see the emergence of the (DT) Tanzel Smart. You know what ‘Lou’ (DT Louis Trinca-Pasat) brings inside as a solid player. I think (DE) Morgan Fox has done some good things and then bringing back (DT Tyrunn) Walker – all of those guys can do a little bit of everything. Like you already mentioned with ‘Brock’ (Michael Brockers) and I think the more guys that you can have that you feel like can fill a variety of roles – the fresher you can allow those guys to be where you’ve got a healthy rotation. That’s when those guys have a chance to be at their best.”

(On if he feels like this year was a strong draft class despite not having a first-round pick and considering so many made the final roster)

“I think (General Manager) Les (Snead) and his staff did a great job of kind of prioritizing that board and then allowing, when our coaches got involved in it, for us all to be on the same page and kind of come to a conclusion – especially with those guys early on. So far, we know that the season’s going to really give us a good idea of kind of where we’re at with those players. But from what we’ve seen with the offseason program going into training camp and the preseason – I think that there’s a lot of draft picks that we’re going to rely heavily on. I think you look at some of those guys especially offensively with the skill players that we drafted. (OLB) Samson’s (Ebukam) a guy that has flashed. And then you look at (OLB) Ejuan Price in the limited time that he’s had, you see why he was such a productive player at Pitt, (DT) Tanzel Smart. So, when you go back and you really look at it, you do feel good about what we were able to do through the draft and these are guys that we’re going to be counting on and looking forward to seeing these guys progress each and every day.”

(On what went into TE Johnny Mundt making the active roster)

“I think when you really look at it, John did a nice job the other night. He’s been a guy that…very smart, contentious player. I think he’s a guy that we’re really looking forward to developing. He’s a guy that…I don’t necessarily know how things will shape out, but when you do go get a (TE) Derek Carrier then it allows you to feel comfortable with that fourth tight end to go the route of where you’re going to be patient with a guy and allow him to develop, knowing that he had the ankle injury in the rookie minicamp – so he’s missed some time. But when he’s gotten out there and when you look at what he was able to do at Oregon, he’s got some ability. He’s got some talent – really contentious, smart. He has the ability to move around the formation a little bit. Then I think (Tight Ends Coach) Shane’s (Waldron) done a good job of getting him more comfortable playing in-line. It was good for John to make a couple plays the other night for his confidence. I think you see a little bit of flashes with him and he’s a guy that we’re looking forward to kind of just seeing how he progresses.”

(On if he expects most of his starters to practice this week)

“Yeah we are. Unless something changes, everybody’s going to be ready to go. That was kind of what we had out there today as well. So, with the exception of obviously (DT) Aaron (Donald) not being there, we had kind of all hands on deck and that was good. You know, you’ve got (LB Mark) Barron out there, you’ve got (OLB Robert) Quinn, (CB) Kayvon Webster is back and healthy. So, everybody that has missed some time was back out there and they did a nice job. It was good to see them move around.”

(On if Monday will be a full practice)

“It’ll be modified. I think what it is, is we want to be aware of using it to be able to get ahead on the Colts, but also want to be fresh. So, that when we do get into that normal game week preparation, because Tuesday will be a day off and then we’ll get right into our normal weekly rhythm that we’ll have throughout the course of the season. So, Monday will be a bonus day. I thought today was good for these guys to get out there, get a good sweat in, but really didn’t want to push it too much. We got some good competitive work. There’s a little bit of carryover kind of what we do offensively and defensively, where even when you’re going against each other, you’re seeing some similarities to what we’ll see from Indy offensively and defensively and it’s going to be a great challenge. We’re excited to get going and Monday will really represent the first day of true preparation for our team and for the Colts.”

(On if he is still hopeful that he will see Donald at practice on Monday)

“Oh yeah, I’m an optimistic guy. You know, I’m always going to take the positive approach, so nothing’s changed on my end. I know that with what I can do is try to help with that situation, I had some conversations with Aaron. Aaron’s a very special player to us and we want him here and we want him to be a part of this. I think with what these players have started to create, I think it would be special to have Aaron be a part of that, because of what we’ve talked about and some of the things that we want our players to represent and the way they go about their daily work. Everything that I’ve heard and in the short exposure that I’ve had to Aaron, he kind of personifies what we’re looking for. And I think the players have a huge amount of respect for him. We already know what the production that he’s had, that kind of speaks for itself. That’s why he’s an important part of what we’re trying to do. We’re going to try to come to a solution and a conclusion to this. I can’t tell you how happy I’ll be, hopefully, if I don’t have to answer any more of these questions about it (laughs).”

(On the tone of his conversations with Donald)

“I think the one thing that I would reiterate – (Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Chief Operating Officer) Kevin (Demoff), (General Manager) Les (Snead) and (Senior Assistant) Tony (Pastoors) have done a great job of kind of keeping me out of those discussions when it comes to the money and the specifics of it. And, Aaron and I’s discussions have been exclusive to you know, player/coach relationship types of things – what he’s missed out on, how much we can’t wait to get him back here. And Aaron loves football. He wants to be here. We respect their approach and where they’re at, their stance, kind of based on kind of what they want to get accomplished out of these things. But, with regards to mine and Aaron’s dialog, it’s been exclusively kind of player/coach football related stuff. And, that’s where I think it can be – that’s what you want it to be and that’s where I think it’s helpful and healthy for my role to be. That’s why you appreciate Les, Tony and Kevin taking that approach and kind of looking out. Let’s keep it about business with them and let them kind of get those things handled with the agents and you keep it about football with your players and that’s very helpful for me.”

(On who initiates those conversations with Donald)

“I’m kind of chasing him around like I’m chasing a girl in high school again right now (laughs). So, I reach out to Aaron, just like anything else. We’ve had a back-and-forth dialog. I’ve reached out to Aaron, but it’s kind of been a back-and-forth. He’s a guy that I enjoy talking to and I’ll enjoy it a lot more when I see him in person.”

(On if he thinks Donald will be ready to go once he gets back)

Yeah, well I think it’s going to be predicated on when he does get back. Aaron’s a special player. I know he’s taking good care of himself. Certainly there’s no substitute for actual practice and the stress that you get on your body when you’re putting pads on and the time in between plays. If there’s anybody that you feel like can try to mimic and emulate those things when he’s working out on his own, Aaron is one of those guys. But, we do definitely want to be aware of getting him back and being smart about it. While knowing that, if we do get it solved and come to a solution, he’s one of our best players – want to have him out there with his teammates, but not at the expense of not having a smart plan in place to where you rush him back and then it results in not having him for a couple weeks. So, hopefully those are things that we’ll have to figure out a plan sooner than later, but that’s definitely something based on when he comes back, we’ll have those discussions and that will involve (Director/Sports Medicine and Performance) Reggie (Scott), (Strength and Conditioning coach) Ted (Rath), Aaron, our coaching staff and a lot of people involved in that conversation with how we feel like its best for our team and for him moving forward into the season.

(On if he is prepared for a scenario where Donald does not show up)

“Yeah. Certainly you have to. I think you always have to have those plans in place and I think that’s the one thing that you don’t want to have to do that, but I think what I would say that’s been such a breath of fresh air with our team and our players that have been here is, while they want to have Aaron back, they haven’t allowed it to be a distraction to what we’re trying to get done and guys are getting reps at the spot that you kind of project Aaron right now. I know that if that’s the case, they’ll be ready to go against Indianapolis and we got confidence in those guys to step up. Certainly, we know the type of player that Aaron is, but I think credit to the players right now that are here, they won’t allow it to be a distraction and if he does come back, everybody will welcome him back with open arms and be happy to have him.