FOXBORO, Mass. — Chris Long played for the St. Louis Rams for eight seasons. This Sunday, he’ll play against them — or, technically, against the newly relocated Los Angeles version — for the first time.
Long hadn’t donned an NFL uniform other than the Rams’ before joining the New England Patriots this past offseason, so it would be natural for him to feel some uncommon emotions as he prepares to take the field against his former team. But the veteran defensive end insisted he’s approaching this game the way he would any other.
“It should be pretty normal,” Long said before Wednesday’s Patriots practice. “It’ll be a tough game, tough football team. I have a great amount of respect for those guys. They’ve been in a lot of close games this year. They’re very physical, and they’ve got a lot of explosive skill players, as well. So it’s going to be a tough matchup for us.”
Long said he hasn’t had any extra communication with his old teammates this week (“No more than usual”) but also isn’t actively avoiding them ahead of Sunday’s tilt.
“No,” he said, “because at the end of the day, you play against people you know all the time in the league. So it’s no different from that. Shutting it down would make it seem like it’s something other than normal, which it isn’t. It’s a normal Sunday — an opportunity to play a tough football team and hopefully get a win.”
Will it be even a little bit strange, though, to see that blue-and-gold, ram-horned helmet on the heads of the opposition?
“Not too strange,” Long insisted. “Listen, I had good years there. I’ve got a lot of love for all those guys and the coaches. But at the end of the day, this is where I play football right now. So it’s not weird.”
Long already has won more games this season than he had in any of his eight years in St. Louis, and as long as the 9-2 Patriots don’t suffer a stunning collapse down the stretch, the 31-year-old will experience playoff football for the first time in his career this winter.
The Rams, meanwhile, have struggled in their first season back in L.A., posting a 4-7 record through 11 games while fielding the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense.
“It’s business as usual as far as playing a tough football team,” Long said. “Regardless of their record, that is a tough group of guys, and they’ve played a lot of close games.”
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images