When the arguably best player in the NFL, and inarguably one of the great defensive linemen of all time is caught on camera swinging not one, but TWO helmets at opposing players' heads in a joint practice brawl:
... it is, to say the very least, noteworthy. And to say the most, a major story that deserves explanation. Especially when the NFL and the Super Bowl champions he works for seem to be giving the whole, ugly mess a good leaving alone. If a thing like this had gone on say, 10 years ago, every Big J journo covering the league would be demanding answers.
This is, after all, the NFL that spent millions investigating whether Richie Incognito was a bully or just kind of a dick. And is always on the lookout for a good scapegoat to make an example of, like Sean Payton getting railroaded over the Bountygate fiction. Not to mention, in a pro football world that has just managed to change the national conversation away from CTE, you'd think having one of their face-of-the-league players trying to crush guys' skulls like he's a Viking berserker swinging a war hammer, would be very much frowned upon.
But this is 2022. A time in which sports figures get to control their narrative. Which is to say, they sell their narrative to a corporation that then slaps their logo on it for profit. Where conversations are monetized. Where to get an interview, you've got to allow time for the interviewee to drone on about how proud he is "to be partnering with Dr. Sucralose's Aspartame-Free Super Whey Protein and Maltodextrin Post-Workout Recovery Laxative" or whatever. Which was the case when Donald gave his first interview since he brought two helmets to a shoving match:
Q: “What happened last week in joint practices? Because we all saw the video of you swinging helmets, and people were wondering what was going on there.”
Donald: “It was just a practice. Obviously, people got phones out and things like that. But I’m not gonna sit and talk about negative stuff that happened at a practice. My main focus is Buffalo.”
Q: “Was there any internal punishment?”
Donald: “We talked. We talked. So … ”
Q: “Were you thinking maybe you were going to get suspended or anything?”
PR lady, seeing this wasn't going in the direction she wanted and interrupting: “Hey Zach? We’re just gonna focus just here because Aaron’s here today to talk about [the thing she's there to sell]. So you do have two minutes left, if you want to pivot to your last question please.”
This is a prime example of what they refer to in politics as "bad optics." Aaron Donald is one of the baddest men on the planet. The scourge of interior offensive linemen across the nation. The Quarterback's Bane. The mere mention of his name strikes visions of 3rd & 27s into the hearts of offensive coordinators. Rams Week on their opponents' schedules causes backup quarterbacks to stay for extra work after practice, knowing his presence increases the likelihood of them playing meaningful snaps. And yet, here he is, hiding behind some account executive like he can't fight his own battles.
You're Aaron goddamned Donald. You don't need someone stepping in on your behalf just because they have a Bachelor's in Marketing. You don't need protection from some interviewer. NFL backfields need protection from you. Don't forget that.
The next time Donald is asked about the helmet fight, he needs to remind everyone who he is. Three time Defensive Players of the Year get to commit A&BDW with other players skull buckets because they're above reproach. Normal rules and regulations apply to average people, not them. They have the immunity that can only come with being so indispensable that their coaches would not dare to discipline them. And for sure, they don't need some salesperson jumping in on a Zoom call to save them from mere words.
Be better, Aaron Donald.