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NFL will be watching Aaron Donald during Rams-Raiders joint practices

Aaron Donald will need to be on his best behavior during joint-practices with the Raiders.

Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL will be on high-alert when the Los Angeles Rams practice with the Las Vegas Raiders on Wednesday and Thursday before their upcoming preseason game.

Exactly one-year ago, Aaron Donald swung his helmet at opposing players during joint practices with the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite some calling for a suspension, the NFL allowed the Rams to handle the incident themselves. In a statement at the time, the team said, “The incident will be addressed internally, and any discipline will remain in-house.”

Donald got off with a slap on the wrist and was lucky to not have been suspended with pressure from the NFL media. Just the year before, Myles Garrett served a six-game suspension for swinging his helmet at Mason Rudolph during a game. The only difference between Garrett’s incident and Donald’s was that Donald’s happened during a team-controlled practice.

Joint-practices between teams have caught a lot of traction over the last few years. Some teams even find them more valuable than preseason games as they are able to control each situation. If a team wants to work on their red zone offense or defense, that is a situation that they can set up during a practice and correct any mistakes in the moment.

However, joint-practices can also get heated in more than one way. In late summer, the weather is hot. Additionally, emotions run high and these are players that aren’t familiar with one another.

That's especially the case when it comes to the Rams and Raiders. These are two teams with a history. Both of these teams have a history in Los Angeles and while the Rams were in St. Louis, the Raiders fanbase continued to grow in Southern California. While the Raiders haven’t played in Los Angeles since the 1980s, their fanbase in the area has remained very strong.

The Rams and Raiders attempted to hold joint-practices back in 2021 and things didn’t go well then with players being sent home in one of them. The Wednesday practice was unproductive with things reportedly getting too physical. That carried over into the Thursday practice which was called off 45-minutes early because the two teams got in a prolonged fight.

At the time, Donald was dismissive of the situation and said,

“It’s football, man. Honestly, every joint practice I’ve ever been a part of, there’s always a fight. The way things happened yesterday, how physical it was, I was pretty sure it was going to come back and be a lot of BS.”

The same thing happened in 2019 when the Rams and Raiders got together with a scrimmage having to be cut short. To no surprise, Donald was at the center of it . Described by Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride,

“The first fight came in pass protection drills. Aaron Donald lined up across from Gabe Jackson and the two locked up like bucks or... Rams as it were. Afterward they both continued to hold onto each others jersey and jaw with each other. Then the shoving started and the teams converged.”

Donald was dismissive of the situation then, too, saying,

“It’s football. It’s just practice. It’s how the emotions [are] some days. A little bit of pushing and shoving ain’t never hurt nobody. We’re just getting after it.”

To make this week’s practices even more interesting, the Raiders were tied for the second-most penalized team in the NFL in 2022. They tied with the Denver Broncos and trailed only the Arizona Cardinals in this area. Josh McDaniels’ teams aren’t known for their discipline. It should be noted that the Raiders had successful joint-practices with the San Francisco 49ers last week with only small skirmishes.

Tense situations will certainly arise, but hopefully the Rams are able to get a lot out of this week’s practices with the Raiders. Following Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams young players could benefit practicing against a team that isn’t their own.

With all of that said, Donald needs to be careful if tensions do get high. With a history, the NFL likely wouldn’t sit on the sideline this time around if the three-time Defensive Player of the Year were to lose his cool again this year.

The Rams will practice with the Raiders on Wednesday and Thursday before playing each other on Saturday.