Strahan wants Donald to break his sack record
If Michael Strahan’s NFL season sack record has to fall – and it eventually will – the Hall of Fame defensive end wants Aaron Donald to topple it.
“The sack record is fantastic and it’s great,” Strahan said Thursday by phone. “But I hope Aaron does break it. There have been guys who have gotten close, but I just want it to be a good guy who breaks it. Not some jerk, or some guy who doesn’t care about it or take pride in what he does and just kind of luckily rolls through.
“I want somebody who represents the NFL in the right way. He’s that guy.”
At Rams headquarters Thursday, Donald couldn’t help but feel flattered to hear that.
“Any time you get a Hall of Fame player that even knows my name, you’re going to be pumped up about that,” he said. “So it means a lot coming from a guy like that.”
It’s far from a given that Donald will even match what Strahan did for the New York Giants during the 2001 season, when he accumulated 22 1/2 sacks.
With one game to play, at home Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Donald has 19 1/2. So he needs three to tie the record, matching the production he had last Sunday against Arizona. But he has shown such games aren’t once-ina-career outings; he had four sacks against the 49ers when the Rams played them in Week 7.
“It’s something that’s out there,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of the record. “You don’t acknowledge (it) in the team meetings. You talk about guys playing to the best of their ability, and doing different things to hopefully make plays like that. But that’s not something that we’re saying, like, ‘This is the key to the game for us to be able to win as a team.’ ”
First things first. The Rams need to beat the 49ers in the finale to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, and the first-round bye that comes with it. In that sense, the sack record is merely icing. But it’s also a spectacular accomplishment, especially because Donald is a defensive tackle who is routinely doubleteamed, as opposed to a defensive end who frequently has only one player, an offensive tackle, between him and the quarterback.
“He’s on the interior, and that’s kind of like fighting your way out of a phone booth because you get surrounded on all sides,” said Strahan, who was a left defensive end, meaning he lined up opposite the right tackle. “When people know you’re the guy who gets sacks and creates all that stuff, not only are you fighting in a phone booth, but they’re constricting the walls of the phone booth by making sure everybody’s really paying attention to you. You kind of have that double trouble.”
Rams running back Todd Gurley called Donald “the best football player I’ve ever been around.”
“It’s an honor to be able to just witness greatness and play alongside him,” Gurley said.
In Arizona, after he set both the franchise sack record and the NFL mark for sacks by a defensive tackle, Donald had to hold back tears on the team bus.
“Because it’s part of history,” he said. “This is stuff you dream about. You always want to have success, but you never think it’ll be as big as it is. So just playing the game and putting the body of work in and watching it pay off meant a lot.”
(It’s noteworthy that the NFL began recognizing sacks as a statistic only in 1982, so players whose careers predated that, do not factor in, among them Rams Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones.)
With one game to play, Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald has 19 1⁄ sacks. The single-season record is 2 22 1⁄2, by Michael Strahan.