A problem with Seattle Sehawks C Justin Britt.
The problem really didn’t originate in this game or with Britt, but that’s where we should start: at less than 1:30 left to go in the game with the Seahawks down five points with the ball needing a touchdown and looking to start a drive from their own 25-yard line.
On the very first play of the possession, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was pressured by EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr., who is having quite the start to his Rams career, into forcing what looked like an intentional grounding. Wise to play through the whistle and play as if it were a fumble, Donald picked up the ball and began to return it down to about the 20-yard line.
Until Britt laid a cheap shot on him as Donald was giving the ball back to the refs:
In the sense of things overall, it’s a cheap shot on one of the Rams’ best players. And it comes at the end of a particularly chippy divisional rivalry.
So you can understand why Donald was, in the moment, heated.
And if you need to know the sincerity of how dirty it was, peep Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman letting Britt know that’s just not how the game’s played even when you’re 5’8”, 180 lbs. standing up to someone who’s 6’6”, 315 lbs.
That was never a scrap NRC was gonna win, and Donald wasn’t about to let him have at it anyway:
AARON DONALD PUT THAT MAN IN A CHOKE HOLD pic.twitter.com/JOMOcDXVCt— Zach Dean (@ZachDeanDBNJ) November 12, 2018
And if things had ended there with unnecessary roughness flags offsetting on both, it would have been the billionth time things got scrappy in a game like this.
But what’s perhaps lingering further and into Overreaction Monday was Donald putting his helmet back on and seeking Britt out on the Seahawks sideline after the game was over:
Now some have suggested this was equally unprofessional of Donald. Some have gone so far as to suggest he deserves a suspension. Put more succinctly by ESPN blogger Lindsey Thiry, many considered it to be “not good.”
But I’d consider things from a perspective prior to Week 10.
I’d consider that Donald is having his best statistical season as a professional football player after two holdouts in two successive seasons in which he was vilified by a plurality (albeit a minority) of Rams fans. Like many players before him but few as talented or as valuable, Donald waited for his payday and a deserved one at that. And waited. And waited. And waited while teammates of his that were nowhere near as deserving got their bread. And players across the league got theirs. And Aaron Donald watched all the way until the final days prior to the season when the Rams finally #paidtheman.
But it’s worth remembering the precipice he was on.
This game can end for players in a single moment. Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell has been delayed his payday to who knows what end. New Orleans Saints WR Dez Bryant tore his Achilles practically as soon as he was signed and may have ended his career with as much. But maybe most relevant was the Seahawks’ own safety Earl Thomas who found a hard wall between himself and a new contract elsewhere erected by the Seahawks’ front office right up until he broke his leg and let the Seahawks know how he felt about it:
And I reference that specifically because this is how John Fraley put it over at Field Gulls, the SB Nation community for fans of the Seahawks:
Good for Earl Thomas.
I mean, obviously, bad for ET, the way his season ended, again, with the cruel finger of fate selecting him for injury while randomly sparing others. It’s terrible. I don’t think hardly any of us can imagine how it feels. To lose your ability to do your job, to lose millions of dollars, to lose what makes you great, for a while at least. Maybe for a long while. It’s really, really hard to picture how that feels.
But good for him to flip the bird. Because he got screwed. In more ways than might be immediately apparent.
Good for Earl, that in the worst or second-worst moment of his very public career, he let his disappointment, his anger, his exasperation out. Good for him that he didn’t hide any of those very real emotions, those impulses that make us human. Good for him, being real, in the moment.
Thomas’s extended middle finger isn’t for the fans, teammates, or the postseason prospects of the 2018 Seahawks. It’s an expression of authenticity. Because he craved security and nobody, including himself, did their job to make it happen. And now maybe the one thing he’s actually great at, in the one city where he excelled, maybe that chapter of his life is over. What authentic human wouldn’t want to flip someone off when it all came crashing down?
THAT is what Aaron Donald put his helmet on to go confront.
Not Justin Britt. Not a dirty play. Not an enemy or a rival or an opponent. He went to confront the very real proximity of all of it coming crashing down.
And that’s way more “not good” than facing down Britt on the sideline.
Besides, Donald wasn’t going to hurt Britt. Hell, he clearly didn’t even want to fight. If Aaron Donald wants to throw hands, Aaron Donald is gonna throw hands.
He wanted to let him know, and any and everyone paying attention at home, that it ain’t going down like that. Not Aaron Donald. Not the 2018 Rams.
This is a physical game. The Rams currently have 12 players on injured reserve. We see injuries across the league on a weekly basis that end seasons, that end careers. We might have seen one today for WR Cooper Kupp albeit without the pernicious sin of dirty play.
What we saw from Aaron Donald at the end of the game was a player confronting the emotional-laden mortality of his professional career. And it’s why if you watch the clip again, you can see Seahawks QB Russell Wilson initially arrive to intervene before backing off.
Unlike Britt, Donald wasn’t going to do anything to threaten his career.
He wasn’t doing anything nor was he going to do anything “not good.”
With his own conduct putting Donald’s physical readiness on the line, Britt had already made sure the time for that had passed.