Aaron Donald’s timeline of dirty plays: Choking opponents only part of player’s history with Rams

Aaron Donald is without a doubt one of the top defensive players in the NFL, if not the best player in the league.

The eighth-year player has made a Pro Bowl each and every season with the Rams and has seven first-team All-Pro nominations, and has already (deservedly) earned mentions as one of the best players in the NFL, regardless. of the position.

But he also has a notable history of being an overzealous enforcer, regularly picking on opposing players and, on occasion, NFL officials.

by Spotrac, Donald has 10 fines throughout his NFL career for $167,345, with another possible inning after an altercation in the Rams’ wild-card win over the Cardinals. With the exception of two roughing the passer penalties, all the fines Donald has faced are due to unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct or direct fighting with opposing players.

While incidents of foul play in Donald’s game are rare, he has nonetheless shown a willingness to get his hands on opposing players once the play is over. That mindset certainly lends itself to creating one of the best NFL defenders of all time. But it has also created a reputation around Donald as a dirty player. Fair or not, he has given credence to such notions with his repeated matchups against opposing players.

With that, Sporting News breaks down Donald’s foul play career timeline from 2016 to present:

Timeline of Aaron Donald’s fines and foul play

September 12, 2016: Donald grabs Patton’s neck

Donald didn’t face his first fine until his third season with the Rams, in his first game against the 49ers. Donald, by then a two-time Pro Bowler who had received his first All-Pro the previous year, had his first notable foul play on the “Monday Night Football” stage in a 28-0 loss to San Francisco.

The incident occurred midway through the fourth quarter, with the 49ers already leading sizable 21-0, when Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree shoved in quarterback Blaine Gabbert after a two-yard gain. As both teams converged, Donald ran to grab wide receiver Quinton Patton in the back of the head. He then pushed Patton away from the pile.

After the altercation, Donald was ejected for not only grabbing Patton’s neck, but also for making contact with an official. Donald then slammed his helmet on the ground before walking off the field and out of the stadium to a chorus of boos from 49ers fans.

That incident resulted in Donald’s first two fines of his NFL career: $9,115 for unnecessary roughness and $12,154 for unsportsmanlike conduct, a total of $21,269.

Oct 16, 2016: Donald shoves Stafford on victory knee

Donald made up for missed fines, er, time, with his second offense just a month after his first. Detroit lined up in victory formation to run out time in what ultimately turned out to be a 31-28 victory. But Donald charged into the line of scrimmage, driving the Lions offensive line toward quarterback and future Lions teammate Matthew Stafford as he took a knee.

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty resulted in a fine of $18,231 by the NFL and prompted an apology from then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher to Jim Caldwell of the Lions.

“We will address it and it is unlikely to happen again,” Fisher said.

Dec 15, 2016 – Excessive face mask, throw flag at officer

Donald earned his fourth and fifth fines of the 2016 season in a Week 15 loss to the Seahawks. Officials penalized Donald for an excessive face mask in the fourth quarter of the game, which would be another loss for the Rams. Donald then took the flag and threw it at the official, causing another penalty in the game. In all, the Seahawks gained 30 yards to Donald’s frustration.

The Seahawks ultimately didn’t get any points from the series, but they still won convincingly, 24-3. Donald’s two penalties ($24,309 for throwing the flag at the officer and $18,231 for excessive face mask) brought his total for the season to $82,040.

Oct 7, 2018: Donald finds Justin Britt after the game

Donald didn’t take kindly to a late, out-of-bounds hit from Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt in the latter stages of the teams’ Week 5 meeting (a 33-31 Rams win). Donald picked up what was ultimately deemed an incomplete pass late in the fourth quarter, eventually running out of bounds. Britt pushed Donald from behind, incurring a penalty.

Donald retaliated immediately, standing up and wrapping his arms around Britt’s shoulders. grabbing his mask from behind (The resulting penalty nullified Britt’s.) After the match, Donald, who had already removed his jersey and shoulder pads, put on his helmet and ran onto the field to confront Britt again, grabbing him by the mask.

The NFL fined Donald $23,395 for his altercation with Britt. It was his second and last of the 2018 season after facing a $20,054 fine for roughing up the passer against Derek Carr. for attacking him low — at the beginning of the year.

October 3, 2020: Donald and Gates participate

Donald’s only “controversy” of the 2020 season, if you can call it that, was a $21,056 fine for fighting the Giants’ Nick Gates in a Week 4 matchup. After a first-down play by the Giants, Donald and Gates briefly clashed, grabbing each other’s face masks. Both players were hit with unnecessary roughness penalties.

Nov. 28, 2021: Donald chokes the Packers’ Lucas Patrick

This was the first of two choking incidents during the 2021 season, occurring near the start of the fourth quarter of the Rams’ Week 12 game at the Packers.

Green Bay was looking to extend a 36-25 lead. After an incomplete third down, cameras caught Donald grabbing Patrick’s throat with his left hand. Patrick raised his hands during the altercation and gestured towards his throat; However, despite an officer watching the incident unfold, Donald was not disciplined.

That wasn’t the case after the game, when the NFL fined him $10,300 for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” Interestingly, it was Donald’s second-lowest fine of his career, following the $9,115 unnecessary roughness penalty against San Francisco in 2016.

January 17, 2022: Donald is caught drowning again

Donald’s second choking incident of the 2021 season was his first, in a way: It could result in his first fine in a playoff game. The All-Pro defensive lineman chased down Cardinals offensive lineman DJ Humphries on Arizona’s first drive of the second half.

After a long completion to the Rams 14-yard line, Donald grabbed Humphries’s face mask, a common move for him in extracurricular fights, before ripping off his helmet.

Donald could then be seen attempting to grab Humphries’s neck, even closing in on him through his own teammates as they tried to keep the two players away from each other.

Unlike the earlier incident with the Packers, Donald received an in-game penalty. Because it was a dead-ball foul on the Cardinals at the 14-yard line, Arizona moved half the distance toward the goal line on its only touchdown drive of the game. The Rams won 34-11, although it remains to be seen if Donald will be fined for his actions in that game.