FOXBORO: As the-then St. Louis Rams’ first-round pick (second overall) in the 2008 draft, Virginia product Chris Long was faced with the task of having to prove himself in the NFL.
Now, as a free-agent addition to the Patriots this off-season, the 31-year-old defensive end is faced with another task.
The task of having to prove himself in the NFL all over again.
If Long faced the task of having to prove he belonged eight years ago, he now faces the task of having to prove he deserves to stay.
The past couple of seasons have not been kind to Long, his production plummeting from 50.5 sacks while suiting up for all 96 of the Rams’ games over the first six years to four sacks while missing 14 of the team’s 32 games due to injuries (ankle in 2014; knee in 2015) over the last two.
“The great thing about [the past two seasons]is that was yesterday,” Long said during a recent break from the Patriots’ organized team activities on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. “It’s in the past.
“I’m out here with a great attitude every day trying to get better. You try to reprove yourself every day, so as a player you should come out every day and try to reprove yourself and that’s all I try to do every day. New situation, old situation, whatever, it’s just one day at a time for me.”
The one-year contract he signed earlier this off-season truly marked what could be a fresh start for Long.
Yet to have appeared in an NFL playoff game, Long has joined a team that hasn’t missed the postseason since his first year in the league.
Long’s father, Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long, told ESPN.com earlier this offseason that his son was willing to take less money from the Patriots in exchange for the opportunity to win a Super Bowl.
“As far as why I came here, [that]really isn’t important,” Long answered when asked if his new team’s track record played a part in his decision to relocate to New England. “The fact that I’m here to me is really important.
“The fact that I fill my duties as a New England Patriot every day is what’s important to me. I have a lot of learning to do, and the only way I can approach that is to work as hard as I possibly can every day and worry about myself. It’s just exciting to be a part of an organization like this.”
That opportunity presented itself earlier this year when the Rams didn’t invite Long to join them when they made the move to Los Angeles. The team released him in February.
Long found a job opening in March. News of a contract agreement with the Patriots broke just hours after the team dealt Chandler Jones, its Pro Bowl defensive end, to Arizona in exchange for a second-round draft pick and guard Jonathan Cooper.
Rather than looking back at what brought him to New England, though, Long prefers to look ahead to what will keep him here.
“Any day I can play football is invigorating to me,” said Long. “Just to get out here with this awesome group of guys is invigorating to me.
“It’s not really about what happened in the past, it’s about my first week (of OTAs) and how I can adapt and help the team do things the way they do them around here. That’s exciting.”