IRVINE — Trumaine Johnson wore a Rams jersey Saturday. He talked about winning games for the Rams. He signed a couple hundred autographs for Rams fans, and even greeted one who heckled him.
Yet there’s a subtext now clear to everyone. Johnson won’t be with the Rams after this season.
The Rams, for a second consecutive offseason, tagged Johnson as their franchise player, a designation that included a guaranteed one-year contract worth almost $17 million. Johnson often said he hoped to sign a long-term contract with the Rams, but that deadline quietly passed on July 17.
“I wanted it. I wanted it big-time,” Johnson said. “I believe the Rams are going in a different direction at the end of the season, and that’s out of my control. So I’m here, and I’m putting my jersey on, and I’m still lacing up my cleats. I’m happy. I’m here to win games and help this team win games.”
On a day when star defensive tackle Aaron Donald officially began his training-camp holdout, as his agent negotiates a new, massive contract, the Rams welcomed Johnson, even if things are a bit awkward.
A divorce between the Rams and Johnson, their top cornerback, is imminent, but the first day of camp at UC Irvine showed that the sides seemed to have reached an understanding. The Rams will pay Johnson well — nearly $17 million — and he be a good teammate and won’t verbally snipe at the team.
That’s not to say Johnson is thrilled. Asked, in several different ways, about his mindset, Johnson said, “I’m here to win games,” a phrase he repeated eight times in a four-minute interview.
“Overall, any player would want a long-term deal,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t get one. I’m not about to feel sorry for myself or be mad at it and be selfish about it. It’s not about me. It’s about this team and winning games. That’s what I’m here for.”
Johnson could have become a free agent after the 2015 season, but the Rams used their franchise tag on him then,…