If Aaron Donald really is contemplating retirement, it comes as a surprise to Rams general manager Les Snead.
After two weeks of a win-one-for-Donald rallying cry among the Rams, NBC analyst Rodney Harrison explained why just hours before kickoff of Super Bowl 2022. He reported that the 30-year-old future Hall of Famer was considering walking away from football if the Rams won.
It matched up with Donald’s own pregame admission that he had nothing left to accomplish other than adding a Super Bowl to his résumé, which includes seven All-Pro selections and three Defensive Player of the Year awards in eight seasons.
Not so fast, however.
“He’ll sleep on it and see, but I’m not buying it,” Snead told NFL.com. “He’s a young kid. He’ll get bored and need something to do.”
Donald wouldn’t be the first Hall of Famer to be enticed by early retirement. Former Lions greats Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson both took that path.
For his part, Donald talked around questions about retirement in postgame interviews. He said he was going to “live in the moment” for a few days, choosing not to confirm or deny the reports.
Cynics might say this is an elaborate ploy for a new contract, as other pro athletes have leveraged retirement to force an extension. Donald is the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid defensive player by average salary ($22.5 million) on a six-year, $135 million contract running through 2024.
“He’s done everything you could possibly do,” teammate Von Miller said of Donald, “but this feeling right here, there’s nothing like it. It’s addictive. Coming to the Super Bowl is one thing, but winning it is different. This feeling is great, it just makes you want it more and more and more. But he’s definitely capping off a great career if he chooses to do that. But this is an addictive, feeling, man, and I just can’t see him walking away from this.”
Miller won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos and added his second ring with the Rams.