Aaron Donald needs 3 1/2 sacks Sunday to break the NFL single-season record, and he has at least one person outside of the Rams rooting for him: Michael Strahan, the Hall of Famer who set the mark.
“The sack record is fantastic and it’s great,” Strahan told the Los Angeles Times. “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.”
Told of Strahan’s remarks, Donald appeared sincerely flattered, the Times noted.
“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.”
The housekeeping: The NFL began tracking sacks as a statistic in 1982. Strahan recorded 22 1/2 for the Giants in 2001. Donald — coming off a three-sack performance against the Cardinals — has 19 1/2 entering the Rams’ Week 17 game against the 49ers, mind-blowing considering Donald didn’t have one in the Rams’ first three games.
Breaking or even tying Strahan’s record might look like a reach, but consider that Donald had four sacks against the 49ers 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.’”
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips reiterated to the Times on Thursday that if Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, breaks the sacks record then he probably would get MVP consideration.
Phillips also has a theory that Donald’s monster season springs from the six-year, $135 million contract Donald signed after a training-camp holdout before this season.
“Oh, 100 percent,” Donald said, agreeing with Phillips’ theory. “I feel like the word ‘thank you’ ain’t enough. You got to show it.”
Now it comes down to Sunday against the 49ers. The 6-foot, 284-pound disruptor — Strahan describes him as “strong as an ox” and “built like a bodybuilders. No fat. Six-pack. As a defensive tackle, who in the hell looks like that?” — needs 3 1/2 sacks.
And Strahan would have just the player he envisioned breaking his record.
“I want somebody who represents the NFL in the right way,” Strahan said. “He’s that guy.”