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All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald is not attending the
Los Angeles Rams‘ mandatory minicamp while he continues his lengthy quest for a
lucrative new contract.

Donald wasn’t on the field with his teammates for the Rams’ first minicamp
workout Tuesday Youth
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 , and he wasn’t at their training complex for
their off-field commitments Monday, either. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year
also skipped the Rams’ voluntary workout program over the previous two
months.

”He’s in a good place,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Tuesday. ”Would we want
him to be here? Yeah, we’d love to have Aaron here. But it’s kind of the same
where it’s been. We’re just focusing on the guys that are here, but we’re always
in constant dialogue with Aaron and his group, and would like to come to a
solution. When that’s going to happen, it’s hard to say.”

Donald is home in Pittsburgh during the Rams’ offseason work for the second
straight year, but he reported to last season’s mandatory minicamp to avoid a
potential fine. This year, Donald doesn’t appear to be concerned about losing
money by missing minicamp while he strives to become one of the NFL’s
highest-paid players.

The defending NFC West champion Rams haven’t indicated whether they intend to
fine Donald for missing the camp, but his absence wasn’t a surprise. The team
could fine him more than $84,000 for missing this camp, but it waived much
larger fines incurred by Donald last year when he skipped the entirety of
training camp.

”When I spoke with him last week, I said Womens Jared
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 , `If there’s not a solution to this by next week, will
you be here?”’ McVay said. ”He said, `I’m going to stay back at home, continue
training.”’

Donald is due to make nearly $6.9 million this season in the fifth year of
his rookie contract. The team agrees he deserves a raise after turning in four
dominant seasons as the cornerstone of the Rams’ defense, yet the Rams and
Donald’s representatives still haven’t made a deal after many months of
talking.

The 27-year-old Donald doesn’t have extensive leverage in the negotiation
because the Rams theoretically could keep him for another three seasons through
2021 under a franchise tag. Neither side has disclosed their contract proposals,
but Donald is widely thought to be seeking a contract big enough to make him one
of the top-paid players at any position, with a salary comparable to the wages
of the NFL’s better quarterbacks.

The Rams have managed to maintain a positive relationship with Donald even
after he skipped training camp and the entire preseason schedule last summer. He
reported to the team shortly before the regular season began, missing the first
game.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection also skipped most of the Rams’ offseason
program and organized team activities last year. Although he showed up for last
season’s mandatory minicamp, he didn’t participate in the team drills, instead
doing individual work and staying on the sidelines.

Donald is expected to be the foundation of a standout defensive line
alongside Rams newcomer Ndamukong Suh, who agreed to a one-year, $14 million
deal in the offseason.

Donald is missing several weeks of work with the Rams’ revamped defense,
which also added star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters while losing
three veteran leaders: Trumaine Johnson Youth
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 , Robert Quinn and captain Alec Ogletree.

The new Rams don’t seem worried about missing these chances to build
chemistry while establishing new leaders in the locker room.

”He’s the MVP, so we know what he’s going to do when he gets here,” Talib
said. ”Everybody is just going to be themselves. If you’re a leader, it’s going
to happen naturally. Nobody has to go out of their way to be a leader, go out of
their way to hoorah and just yell stuff out. Everybody will just be
themselves.”

NOTES: Donald is the only player unaccounted for at minicamp, McVay
confirmed. … McVay is canceling Thursday’s scheduled practice and taking his
team on a tour of the franchise’s under-construction stadium in Inglewood,
California. The Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers will open the
multibillion-dollar Hollywood Park stadium complex in 2020.

Tony Sparano once beat Bill Belichick with the single wing, but wasn't as old
as that made him sound.

Sparano was only 56 when he died unexpectedly Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings
announced his death in a statement that did not provide a cause.

He had been the Vikings' offensive line coach since 2016.

The most memorable moment in Sparano's 19-year NFL coaching career came in
2008, when he was a rookie head coach with the Miami Dolphins, inheriting a team
that had gone 1-15 the previous season. In Week 3 he surprised Belichick with a
single wing-style formation that the Dolphins called the wildcat, and they won
at New England 38-13.

The wildcat became a fad around the league, and the stunning upset propelled
Sparano's team to 11 wins and the AFC East title. It's one of two playoff berths
for the franchise since 2002.

That was Sparano's lone winning season, and he was fired in 2011 after going
29-32 in Miami. He was popular with his players Josh Jones
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 , but a dismal home record, declining attendance and a
falling-out with general manager Jeff Ireland accelerated his firing by owner
Stephen Ross.

Sparano was the Oakland Raiders' interim head coach in 2014 after the team
fired Dennis Allen, and he went 3-9. He also worked as an assistant for the
Browns, Redskins, Jaguars, Cowboys and 49ers, and most recently for Vikings
coach Mike Zimmer.

"I love Tony Sparano," Zimmer said in a statement. "He was a great teacher, a
grinder of a worker and had a toughness and fighting spirit that showed in our
linemen. He was a great husband, father and grandfather and a great friend to
me. This is just sinking in for us, but Tony will be sorely missed by all."

Sparano's former players also paid tribute.

"Heart broken and lost for words! We lost a great man," tweeted Brian
Hartline, who played receiver for Sparano in Miami.

"Damn I'm at a loss for words Womens
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 ," tweeted Raiders Pro Bowl tackle Donald Penn.
"Coach Sparano taught me so much not just about football about life also."

Sparano played at the University of New Haven where he was a four-year
letterman. He was hired as New Haven's head coach in 1994 and held that position
for five seasons.

In Miami, Sparano lost his first two games before turning to the wildcat. Six
times they ran plays from the formation at New England, snapping the ball
directly to running back Ronnie Brown, and four of those plays resulted in
touchdowns.

"It was like playing hide and go seek, making them guess," Brown said at the
time.

Sparano said the Dolphins began practicing the wildcat during training camp
but waited until the Patriots game to spring it.

"This is not something that just came up and we scribbled on the board a
couple of days ago," the coach said.

Defenses soon adjusted, and a sputtering offense in Sparano's final two
seasons at Miami contributed to his firing. But the Dolphins haven't won at New
England since the wildcat game.

"We were saddened to learn of Tony Sparano's tragic and unexpected passing,"
owner Ross said in a statement. "Tony made an indelible impact on our team's
history. His toughness, grit and leadership were evident to everyone who had the
chance to coach with or play for him."

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