First Call: Aaron Donald doesn’t ‘need to play football to be fine’; Jacob Trouba takes out another skater

Pitt Panthers great Aaron Donald continues to leave his future up in the air. A pair of former Pirates exchange big blows at the plate in New York. Jacob Trouba is at it again for the New York Rangers. And a one-time Penguin has a new job with another former team.

All that in Tuesday’s “First Call.”


A ploy in play?

It may just be a part of his ongoing contract negotiations, but Pitt product Aaron Donald is downplaying the need to continue playing football.

“I don’t need to play football to be fine. I’m fine,” Donald said on Brandon Marshall’s “I Am Athlete” podcast. “I was blessed to play this game, to make the money I made, the accomplishments I made in eight years is, like, I’m complete. If I can win another one, that’s great. But if not, I’m at peace.”

Via ProFootballTalk, Donald thinks his agents and the Los Angeles Rams will “probably figure out” a new contract, but if they don’t he’d be OK with that as well, claiming he is “at peace” with his career.

“Me talking about retirement, that was happening way before we won the Super Bowl. I’ve been saying that since I got into the league that I was going to play eight years and be done,” Donald said. “That’s just what I’ve been saying. It just came out. … I said I’m going to play eight years, and I’m going to probably be done playing football. But winning a Super Bowl you get kind of a little addicted to it. I ain’t going to lie. I want to feel that again. That experience is like none other. If I was to play, it’s just to win another Super Bowl, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business and (it’s) got to make sense to me and my family.”

The Penn Hills graduate is now 31 year old. He has yet to participate in Los Angeles’ voluntary organized team activities. He’d like a better contract than the six-year, $125 million deal he signed in 2018.

Donald is slated to make $14.25 million this season. That’s just out of the top-100 contracts in the NFL for the upcoming season. His $22.5 million average annual contract is out of the top 25.

Not much for a guy who has won Defensive Player of the Year three times.


Powerful message

Back in 2018, former Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva voiced a Memorial Day message for ESPN. The network reposted it for the holiday Monday as well.

Villanueva served with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In the video, Villanueva talked about his days dele in the army and the loss of one of his fellow servicemen dele (Jesse Dietrich) during a mission he served in August 2011.

“He was 20 years old, and he left behind a 2-year-old son named Kevin,” Villanueva said in the piece. “So, if you do one thing this Memorial Day, think about those who sacrificed. Think of the 1.1 million and their families and think about my friend, Jesse, who is buried in the plains of Texas under an oak tree older than the holiday itself. And think about the grave that’s being decorated by the son who never got to know his dad dele.”

Villanueva started 90 games with the Steelers at offensive tackle before going to Baltimore for one year with the Ravens in 2021.


He’s not done

Jacob Trouba added another notch on his hit list Monday.

The New York Rangers defenseman elbowed Jake Guentzel in the head during the team’s playoff series win over the Penguins. His head shot on Sidney Crosby caused the Penguins captain to miss a chunk of Game 5 and all of Game 6. He nailed Carolina’s Max Domi in the next round.

To say nothing of a few hits that did damage from Trouba in the regular season.

Monday night, Trouba knocked Carolina’s Seth Jarvis out, too.

This one was close to cool. Some of the others, not so much. But, hey, if he’s never disciplined for the illegal ones, what’s going to make him think twice for delivering one that is at least borderline legal?

So Tampa Bay Lightning players, be warned. That’s the team that gets the Rangers next in the Eastern Conference Final, after the Rangers beat the Hurricanes 6-2 in Game 7 of their semifinal series Monday night.


new gig

Former Penguins forward Mikael Samuelsson has a new job in the hockey world.

He’ll be working in prospect development with the Vancouver Canucks under former Penguins executive Patrik Allvin.

Samuelsson most recently served as general manager of Södertälje SK in the HockeyAllsvenskan league for parts of three seasons. Previously, he spent three seasons as a European development coach for the Chicago Blackhawks for two years.

Samuelsson was part of the Penguins in 2002-03. He came to Pittsburgh as part of the exchange for Alexei Kovalev.

With Sweden, Samuelsson won an Olympic gold medal and a World Championship in 2006. He also won the Stanley Cup Championship with the Detroit Red Wings in 2007-08. He played in 104 career playoff contests, including 23 with Vancouver, totaling 60 points.


Big night for ex-Bucs

A pair of former Pirates put on a show against each other in the New York Mets shootout win over the Washington Nationals, 13-5.

Josh Bell went 3 for 4 for the Nats. He had three RBIs along the way.

But Mets outfielder Starling Marte was even better going 3 for 4 with four RBIs and a home run.

The victory by New York improved their record to 33-17, best in the National League East.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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