Rams’ Aaron Donald is tackling more changes

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Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans watch the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald (99) works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans try to get the attention of players during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans Alma Minser and Mike Minser watch during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr., right, goes through drills during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans cheer for Rampage, the team mascot, during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams running backs Darrell Henderson Jr., right, and Xavier Jones work out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans Vincent Delgado, left, Katrina Enriquez, Dean Vega, Mary Rodriguez, Frank Vega cheer for the Rams cheerleaders during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford works out during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Josh Arciniega watches during the first day of Rams training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fan Erik Estrada, Jr., 8, dons his helmet as he arrives to watch the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Former Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo, left, poses for a picture with Gene Gilleland and his children, Grace Gilleland, 13, and Harper Gilleland, 6, during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rams fans ogle merchandise for sale during the first day of training camp on Wednesday at UC Irvine. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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IRVINE — Anticipation rose around Aaron Donald as the NFL’s best defensive lineman sat on a Gatorade tub and shared laughs with teammates before the Rams’ first training camp practice of 2021 on Wednesday.

“A.D., come and sit over here, man!” yelled one of a group of fans 25 yards away, several wearing Donald’s No. 99 jersey. “We want some pictures!”

“We’re not allowed to come over there!” Donald was nice enough to shout back.

Back at the Rams’ old preseason base at UC Irvine, with fans crowding the barriers around the twin practice fields, this was the start of training camp the way Donald remembers it.

It was the way it was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced teams into the privacy of their regular-season training facilities last summer.

Some things were still different.

As Donald explained to that group of fans, no player-fan interaction for autographs or selfies was allowed.

And on the field, Donald was experiencing another in a series of years of change.

For one thing, he had his 30th birthday in May, and it turns out the 2017, 2018 and 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year isn’t immune to the ravages of age.

“I’m getting older. I feel it. The aches and pains last a little longer,” Donald said after practice.

Then there’s this year’s new round of new faces in the defensive huddle.

You don’t get to be Aaron Donald, though, without adapting.

Michael Brockers, Donald’s defensive line wingman for seven years, was traded to the Lions. But Donald is happy to see A’Shawn Robinson join him and Sebastian Joseph-Day on the line.

“We’re definitely going to miss Brock,” Donald said. “I got used to him being there. It’s going to be a big void for us. But A’Shawn is going to step up and make plays for us.”

The Rams lost safety John Johnson to the Browns. Wednesday they had second-year safety Jordan Fuller wearing the green dot on his helmet that would signify he takes Johnson’s place as defensive signal-caller. Donald is high on Fuller.

“It’s more of a leadership role for him this year. He’s got a lot more pressure, a little more on his shoulders, but I think he can handle it,” Donald said of Fuller. “We respect him for what he did last year. He earned that (green dot) himself from what he did on the football field.”

There’s a new defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris, after Brandon Staley was hired as the Chargers’ head coach. Donald is excited about Morris.

“It’s been fun to work with a guy with that much energy,” Donald said of Morris. “He motivates us, but he also makes us laugh.”

Last year’s top-ranked defense will replace at least four starters before the Sept. 12 season opener against the Bears at SoFi Stadium.

But the way Donald sees it, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

“I feel like it’s similar to what we did last year,” he said. “We had a lot of young guys that needed to step up. We didn’t know what to expect. And at the end of the year, we had the best defense in the National Football League.

“Now we’ve got more young guys that we need to step up and make big plays for us. I believe that they can do it. We can build upon last year and do that much better.”

This was the first time Donald spoke with L.A. reporters since he was falsely accused of assault in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Videotape showed Donald playing a peacemaker’s role in the violence outside a party. The accuser recanted.

On Wednesday, Donald said the incident was behind him.

“I was just training, man,” Donald said of his offseason in Pittsburgh. “I ain’t really worried about other stuff. I was just training, getting myself ready for the upcoming season and wasn’t worried about too much other stuff.

“I ain’t going to speak on that, because I was just training, spending time with my kids and my family.”

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“He’s not a guy that just flips it on on Sundays,” Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Donald. “He shows up to practice. He had a great one today.”

Said Donald: “We got a lot of noise. A couple of fans yelling your name. It was good. Anytime you’re back with football, it’s good.”

NOTES

Head coach Sean McVay said offensive line coach Kevin Carberry missed practice because he tested positive for COVID-19. Carberry is said to be vaccinated and not feeling any symptoms. Like rookie wide receiver Tutu Atwell, whose positive test was announced on Monday, Carberry can return to practice after he has two negative tests more than 24 hours apart. … The player of the day was second-year safety Terrell Burgess, back from his October 2020 ankle surgery. Burgess intercepted a pass by John Wolford and broke up one by Stafford. … The play of the day was a long pass from Stafford to a wide-open DeSean Jackson. McVay credited the quarterback, receiver and blown coverage.

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