Long Finds his Football Fit
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Chris Long married plenty of personal success in St. Louis with the ultimate team prize in New England last season.
Now, the 32-year-old veteran defensive end is attempting to finish his professional career with a good football fit and believes he has found it in Philadelphia, the city where his Hall of Fame father played his college ball at Villanova and where his wife grew up as an Eagles fan across the Walt Whitman Bridge in South Jersey.
Long celebrated his birthday earlier this week by signing a two-year deal with the Eagles for $4.8 million, just three months after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots, obviously a tremendous organization but one that didn't necessarily fit Long's skill set as a 4-3 rush end.
"It wasn't any bad blood," Long said during his introductory press conference Friday at the NovaCare Complex when asked why he moved on from the Patriots. "Just football-wise, it was more about finding a positive (situation)."
That situation turned out to be the Eagles where Jim Schwartz employs a similar scheme to the one where Long amassed 54 1/2 sacks over eight seasons with the Rams, including back-to-back double-digit campaigns in 2011 and 2012.
"For me, the thing that I enjoy doing the most is playing in a situation that allows me to be proud of what I put on the field every Sunday," Long said. "Pretty quickly after the season, I was able to be straight up with the coaches (in New England) -- who I admire a lot -- that I was probably going to look to go elsewhere, purely from a football standpoint."
Long, though, learned a lot while he was in Foxborough, namely that he was still a capable player after playing 65 percent of the defensive snaps for the best team in the game.
"I appreciate everything that (the Patriots) gave me," he said. "I would never have that ring that I am about to get fitted for pretty soon. It was a real blessing to be a part of that team last year. ...There was a time when I was injured and playing really bad, that I wasn't sure what my future in football was. I was really lucky to take that (next) step. For Coach (Bill) Belichick to take that chance on me ... I found out that I had a lot left in the tank. I didn't miss a practice, didn't miss a game last year. That was something I was very proud of."
Long was a team player in New England, often lining up as a three-technique in Belichick's scheme even though he's more on a traditional nine- or seven-technique who wants to crash off the edges.
"If you watch New England play a lot of times their defense is sort of a 3-4," he said. "It's not a 3-4. I ended up in a three-technique a lot, playing inside. I was happy to do that and proud to be able to do that for a year. For me, if you watch what I did in St. Louis for eight years, that's more like what we do here."
Long has been given no promises by Schwartz but he obviously fits as the potential replacement for Connor Barwin, ironically a player who Long considers a friend and counseled him on coming to Philly as a replacement.
"I know that being 32, I had to strike while the iron was hot," Long said. "I wanted to be in the right place. This is the right place for me. ..."I feel like I've got a lot left. I really do."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen