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New aim for All-Pros Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp: Rams playoff stars

·4 min read
Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) walks back to the locker room after the team defeats the Detroit Lions in an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
It's another All-Pro season for Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald. (Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

The Rams apparently cannot stop collecting star players to fulfill a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

It started in January when they traded for Matthew Stafford. It continued in November when they traded for linebacker Von Miller and signed free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. This week, they coaxed safety Eric Weddle out of retirement.

Those players were added to a foundation of established and emerging stars.

On Friday, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and receiver Cooper Kupp were announced as part of the All-Pro team selected by the Associated Press. A 50-member nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the NFL participate in the balloting.

Los Angeles Times reporters do not vote for the award.

Donald and Kupp were unanimous selections. Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt also were unanimous selections.

It marked the seventh consecutive year that Donald was voted to the team, which includes players from the NFC and AFC. Ramsey made it for the third time, Kupp the first.

The star-studded Rams play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night in an NFC wild-card game at SoFi Stadium.

Ramsey, also a 2020 All-Pro, acknowledged that a bevy of star players does not always translate to championships.

“But it couldn’t hurt, right?” Ramsey said during a videoconference. “Why wouldn’t you want to be surrounded by a bunch of superstars or a bunch of players who you believe are really good and talented at their positions?

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey returns an interception of a Jared Goff pass against the Lions.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey returns an interception of a Jared Goff pass against the Lions. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“But it has to be put all together. The chemistry has to be right when you do have a team like that. ... Everybody has to excel within their role, so that’s a big part of it. And, hopefully, that’s what we’ll be able to do in these playoffs, the stretch that we want to go on. ... And make it happen.”

Donald, 30, is a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, one of only three players to achieve the feat. He has been voted All-Pro every year except 2014, his rookie year.

Donald, who had 12½ sacks, said it was “a blessing” to have his hard work recognized. But he reiterated that he was chasing something else.

“The ultimate goal is something that I didn’t accomplish — winning a Super Bowl — so that’s what I’m working for,” he said, adding, “I just play my game and let everything else fall in place.

Kupp, 28, led NFL receivers with 145 catches, 1,947 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns, winning the so-called triple crown.

Becoming a unanimous All-Pro was “an extraordinary honor, he said.

“There’s so many good players in this league,” he said. “I’ve touched on it before — it takes a team to make those kinds of things happen. So, very thankful to be part of the group that I am.”

Ramsey, 27, expanded further on the hybrid role he played last season. He has lined up as an outside cornerback, slot cornerback, linebacker and edge rusher.

Cooper Kupp waves to fans after the Rams regular-season finale, a 27-24 overtime loss to the 49ers.
Cooper Kupp waves to fans after the Rams regular-season finale, a 27-24 overtime loss to the 49ers. Kupp led the league in touchdown catches, receptions and yards receiving. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

He had four interceptions, including a spectacular one in a 27-24 overtime defeat to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday.

Ramsey considers himself more than a cornerback.

“I’m always trying to challenge myself,” he said. “I’m always trying to strive for bigger levels and bigger heights in my career.”

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said preparation sets All-Pro players apart.

“Those guys know they're going to command double-teams,” Morris said. “Those guys know they're going to command the hardest cover, they're going to command the hardest amount of issues because people are going to plan for them because they are game-wreckers. … They look at it like a coach.

“They dive deeper than people are willing to go. I think that's the thing that makes those guys great.”

Etc.

Safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) remained out of practice. Receiver Van Jefferson (shoulder) was limited. Linebacker Leonard Floyd (back), who did not practice Thursday, was a full participant. ... Cardinals running back James Conner (ribs) did not practice. Running back Chase Edmonds (ribs/toe) was limited, according to the Cardinals’ injury report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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