Aaron Donald wants to see fans at new SoFi Stadium this fall

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Aaron Donald thinks the NFL ought to figure out a way to get some fans into more of its massive stadiums this fall — at a proper social distance, of course.

The Los Angeles Rams’ All-Pro defensive tackle participated in the team’s second fan-free scrimmage at brand-new SoFi Stadium on Saturday. The players’ shouts at every big play or missed kick echoed off the empty seats during the Rams’ final dress rehearsal for next month’s season opener against Dallas.

The scrimmage was a preview of the Rams’ near future in several senses. Although he loves his team’s new home, Donald has repeatedly said he thinks football just isn’t as fun without fans, even in this gleaming palace.

He doesn’t see why the NFL and government officials shouldn’t closely explore ways to welcome even a few faithful to SoFi on Sundays this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel like we need fans in there just for the excitement and the fun, but ain’t nothing I can do about it,” Donald said. “I think we can try to figure something out to get some type of fans in there, but I don’t know. I feel like it’s a big stadium. Spread people out. But it ain’t my call.”

Teams across the league are developing individual policies for attendance amid various state regulations and other concerns, but most teams have said they won’t allow fans at the start of the season. Although several teams are planning on limited fan attendance, the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers have both said SoFi won’t have fans “until further notice.”

Donald and his teammates got a full game weekend experience with this scrimmage. To prepare the Rams for their new normal after four years playing near downtown at the venerable Coliseum, the team stayed overnight at its new team hotel near Inglewood and went through a full game-day routine leading into the glorified practice.

“It was good, definitely,” Donald said. “Us being in a new stadium, going to a new hotel and all the protocols we’ve got going on with the virus and stuff, it was good to get a feel with it.”

Inglewood Mayor James Butts and members of the city council attended the scrimmage. The Rams will officially open the stadium on Sept. 13 with a prime-time game against the Cowboys.

INJURIES

Linebacker Travin Howard has a knee injury that kept him out of the scrimmage. Howard is projected to win one of the two available starting jobs at inside linebacker, but McVay wouldn’t disclose the severity of his injury.

Kenny Young stepped into the first-team defense’s starting lineup in Howard’s place and earned praise from McVay.

Micah Kiser, another candidate for ample playing time at inside linebacker, earned praised from Donald for his performance in the scrimmage and in camp in general. Kiser made a highlight-reel play by swatting a pass by Goff out of the air and then catching it himself for an interception.

“I think Micah has been doing a great job of communicating calls and running around making plays,” Donald said.

Cooper Kupp left the scrimmage early, but he isn’t injured: McVay said the Rams are “just being smart” with their starting receiver.

STILL HOLDING

Punter Johnny Hekker missed the scrimmage because his wife gave birth to their second child Friday. That meant backup quarterback John Wolford had to be the holder for the Rams’ three kickers while they compete for the chance to replace Greg Zuerlein.

Wolford, the Wake Forest product who excelled in the defunct Alliance of American Football, has never held for kicks in a game, not even in high school.

“They were like, ‘You’re going to have to hold,’ and I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know,'” Wolford said with a laugh. “But then I got out there with (long snapper) Jake (McQuaide), and I felt comfortable.”

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