Michael Brockers' wild ride back to Rams has Aaron Donald happy again

The facepalm emoji is typically used to connote frustration, embarrassment and sometimes even anger.

Aaron Donald knew that when he posted it to Twitter last month for all to see.

The Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle had no words, but he was not happy about the free-agency exodus of defensive starters, which included outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. and linebacker Cory Littleton, but perhaps most importantly to Donald, defensive lineman Michael Brockers, his teammate of six seasons.

However, that was four weeks ago.

Since then, in a wild turn of events caused in large part because of the coronavirus pandemic, Brockers' three-year, $30 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens fell through, and he has since re-signed a three-year deal worth up to $30 million with the Rams.

How happy is Donald now? Just ask Rams coach Sean McVay.

"I know Aaron finally was talking to me again once we got Michael back," McVay said, with a slight chuckle. "He was a little upset with me I think for a couple days."

Following the announcement that Brockers would return, Donald once again posted on social media, but this time he shared four photos on Instagram featuring himself with his longtime teammate, most of which captured them grinning from ear to ear.

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Brockers also is happy about his reunion with the Rams -- who drafted him with the 14th overall pick in 2012 -- and with Donald.

"That's my brother," Brockers said. "You know, what we've built over these six years has been special. ... So for me to, you know, see a guy like that and him want me to be here, want me to be a part of, you know, this journey and be a part of his journey, as well, because we play together -- so you know for me to sit back and tell my kids that I played with one of the greatest 3-techs that ever played football is going to be awesome."

Brockers, 29, is the less-mentioned player on the Rams' defensive line, given his career has coincided with Donald's since the Rams' drafted the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.

But Brockers' role shouldn't be understated, and Donald made that clear before the end of last season. "He don't got the sack numbers," Donald said, "but as far as production, when it comes to stopping the run and doing his job, he's been great at it." In eight seasons, Brockers has 23 sacks, 52 quarterback hits and 43 tackles for a loss.

After last season, Brockers emotionally prepared to depart the Rams. Sitting alongside his wife, Faith, he appeared in a video produced by Uninterrupted, reading what amounted to a thank-you and goodbye letter.

But following his return, Brockers admitted he never wished to leave in the first place.

"I always wanted to be back with the Rams, always wanted to stay here," Brockers said. "So for me, that was just a blessing -- for me to have another chance to get back."

Brockers agreed to terms with the Ravens during the early negotiating window before free agency in March. Because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, he was unable to undergo a physical with Ravens doctors. Without a physical, the Ravens were unable to settle concerns about Brockers' ankle, which he sprained in the regular-season finale.

"Ultimately [the Ravens], I guess they, you know, kind of just took their contract back, just worried about the past injuries and what the ankle looked like on the MRI," Brockers said. "So from there, just the contract that they did offer, it was kind of, it was a lot of insecurity.

"I wasn't secure in the contract. So when the opportunity arose and the opportunity to go to the Rams came back, it was like heaven."

The Rams have not expressed concern about Brockers' ankle, and he said it has felt good as he has worked through rehabilitation.

"I've been working out," Brockers said. "Not grinding, but you know, doing isolated lifts and stuff like that and getting physical therapy on this ... so I feel great."

Brockers' return to L.A. ensures some continuity in a defensive front that otherwise has undergone significant change over the offseason. The Rams parted with veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and hired newcomer Brandon Staley, a first-time NFL coordinator. Fowler, who had a career-best 11.5 sacks last season, departed in free agency for the Atlanta Falcons. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was released and Littleton signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.

"Michael's meant a lot to us here with the Rams and felt like, 'OK, is there a way that we can actually bring him back?' And now we're better off on the defensive line than when we started," Rams general manager Les Snead said. "And when I say defensive line, interior defensive line."

The Rams have agreed to terms with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, though both have yet to sign contracts. The ninth overall pick in 2016, Floyd was released by the Chicago Bears before the final season of his rookie contract. Robinson, a second-round pick in 2016, never materialized into a full-time starter for the Detroit Lions, who let him depart in free agency.

"We feel really good with the interior depth," McVay said. "When you look at just the overall projections of some of those guys that we're expecting to be major contributors, you couldn't feel better about the interior depth of our defensive line, with some young players, getting Brock back."

Snead agreed.

"I identified him as a bonus baby," he said.