The Los Angeles Rams wrapped up their second day of joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. However, before the practice was finished, the two teams got in a brawl after a relative quiet first day. In the middle of it? Aaron Donald swinging a pair pf helmets at Bengals players.
The big question now is whether or not the NFL will do anything. Could a suspension of Aaron Donald be in the cards? In Week 11 of the 2019 season, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for using a helmet as a weapon. Garrett ripped off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and struck the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.
Rudolph missed three games with a concussion and Garrett was suspended six games.
The only real differences between that incident and the one involving Donald on Thursday was that thankfully nobody was hurt and this incident occurred during a joint practice. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero noted that the clubs are responsible for overseeing conduct of players at joint practices. Any league discipline is unlikely.
Clubs -- not the NFL -- are responsible for overseeing conduct of players at practice, including joint practices. So fair to say league discipline for Aaron Donald (or anyone else) in today's brouhaha is unlikely. https://t.co/VfmDycxBKh— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 25, 2022
The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue added in her recap,
“The NFL defers to teams on matters that occur during practice when it considers disciplinary action, so it’s unlikely that Donald will face league-sanctioned discipline.”
However, the NFL isn’t completely powerless in this situation. While a suspension from the league is unlikely, that doesn’t mean that they can’t do anything if they don’t think that the team has done enough. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio,
“The league can take action against teams that fail to properly police their players in such settings. Per a source with knowledge of the procedures, the league could impose sanctions on the Rams, if it’s determined that the Rams had any fault in the matter, such as failing to exercise proper control over their players.”
Any punishment will be up to the Rams. Does that mean Donald will be suspended? Most likely not. The Rams aren’t going to suspend their best player, especially when they play the Buffalo Bills on primetime in Week 1 to start the 2022 season.
It’s the arguably the league’s best offensive player going up against the league’s best defensive player. Neither the Rams nor the NFL are going to get in the way of that ratings juggernaut.
With all of that being said, let’s get one thing straight here: Aaron Donald’s actions in this situation are completely reckless. He’s extremely lucky that nobody was hurt. Whether La’el Collins started it or not, Donald simply needs to be better.
This also isn’t the first time the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has lost his cool. In 2016, Donald was ejected for making contact with an official after a scuffle with the San Francisco 49ers. Earlier this training camp, Donald ripped off Rob Havenstein’s helmet - a member of his own team. Last year in the playoffs against the Arizona Cardinals, Donald tried to choke and threw a punch at DJ Humphries.
Donald is arguably the greatest defensive player of all-time. However, this is one area that he needs to get better as it could end up costing the team.
This will be a situation to monitor over the next few days. A suspension or punishment from the NFL is unlikely. However, after the teams review everything, it’s possible that some sort of punishment comes directly from the Rams.
A source said yesterday on the possibility of disciplinary action against Aaron Donald stemming from the Rams-Bengals joint-practice brawl: "Club will handle." The Rams have not specified yet what action, if any, they will take.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) August 26, 2022