Chris Long looks to help fill the void of Chandler Jones at defensive end. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)
FOXBORO — Chris Long sounds like a guy who’s really ready to re-start his career in New England.
The 31-year-old defensive end signed a one-year, $2 million deal in New England in March after spending his first eight NFL seasons with the Rams.
Long finished his first week of OTAs with his new team on Thursday in the heat on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium. And while this time of the offseason is usually centered around learning, the competitor in Long knows he definitely has something to prove to his new employer and teammates.
“I love the way we go about business,” Long said. “I love getting out here and competing. It was a competitive couple of days. I have lot to worry about to get to the point where I can do my job the way I want to do it here. There’s a lot of learning for me. I’m excited to learn and pick it up. You’ve just got to be a sponge.”
Long is trying to regain the form he showed earlier in his career with the Rams that made him one of the most effective defensive ends in football. In 2011, the Virginia product had a career-best 13 sacks. The next season he had 11.5. He’s played just 18 games in the last two seasons, racking up four sacks and 24 tackles.
“Great thing about that is that’s yesterday. It’s in the past,” Long added. “I’m out here with a great attitude every day, trying to get better and every day you try to re-prove yourself. As a player, you should come out every day trying to re-prove 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.
“I came in with no expectations either way. I’m just here to do my job and do what I’m asked to do. Whatever the coaches want me to do, wherever I line up, I didn’t have any expectations. I just want to come in here and compete and help this team. It was awesome. It was a great day to get to work. We had a great week. I’m excited to look at the film and see how we can get better after three days. It was really fun to be out here, playing football, and competing.”
Long was part of an offseason defensive re-boot for the Patriots, as he figures to slot in and help take the reps of Chandler Jones, who was traded to Arizona. He was out on the field this week, along with fellow veteran newcomers Terrance Knighton, Shea McClellin and E.J. Biggers.
“Any day I can play football is invigorating for me,” Long said. “Just getting out here with this awesome group of guys is invigorating every day for me. It’s not really about what happened in the past. It’s about my first week and how I can adapt and help the team and do things the way they do things around here is exciting.
“Any time you’ve been off for months as a football player, regardless of the situation, it’s good to get out there and knock the rust off. For me, it’s very important for me. I’m just excited to get the opportunity to do this. It was a really fun day out here. It’s just a great opportunity every day to hone my craft and try to adapt to what they’re doing and help the team in any way I can.”
Long was asked if he’s noticed the razor-sharp focus of the Patriots and the way they’ve gone about putting off-the-field distractions like Tom Brady and Deflategate to the side.
“I haven’t been here long enough to make any big determinations,” Long said. “So, I’m just every day trying to eliminate distractions for myself. Any NFL player has distractions to deal with. I just worry about doing my job and eliminating those distractions for myself.”