FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have had their eyes on Chris Long for quite some time.
The defensive end, who signed with New England earlier this offseason, initially was a target of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the lead-up to the 2008 NFL Draft.
“I think we were at (picking at) No. 7,” Belichick said before Thurdsay’s training camp practice. “Chris ended up going at No. 4 or 5, whatever it was, so he was in that conversation. We didn’t know whether he’d be there or not be there, but that’s part of the conversation. We did a lot of work on him. In the end, he was drafted before we picked, so it never played out, but we definitely spent a good amount of time with Chris and of course talked to (then-Virginia coach Al Groh) and the other coaches down there.”
Long, a unanimous All-American with Virginia in 2007, actually went second overall in that draft to the St. Louis Rams, with whom he spent his first eight NFL seasons. The Patriots did just fine for themselves at No. 7, however, nabbing future Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro Jerod Mayo.
Just as Belichick consulted Groh ahead of the 2008 draft, the coach said he conferred with Patriots defensive assistant Brendan Daly before signing Long. Daly, who’s entering his third season on Belichick’s staff, spent two years as the Rams’ defensive line coach from 2009 to 2011.
“B. Daly is a great coach,” Long said Thurdsay. “I had him when I was a younger player in St. Louis. I had him for a couple of years there, so he knows me, I know him. It certainly helps the transition. He just knows football, and he does a great job. All these coaches do a great job of coaching the scheme, the details and the fundamentals. That’s what B. Daly is all about. He coaches you like you want to be coached, he’s communicative and knows the defense, and he’s always there to help you get better.”
Injuries limited Long’s effectiveness late in his Rams tenure. After playing in 96 consecutive games over his first eight NFL seasons, he saw action in just six games in 2014 and 12 in 2015, totaling just 26 tackles and four sacks over those final two campaigns.
While that’s a far cry from Long’s 2011 and 2012 totals (70 tackles and 24 1/2 sacks over two seasons), Belichick is confident the veteran still can be a valuable addition to New England’s already formidable defense.
“Chris obviously missed some time here the last couple of years, so part of that was just where he was physically,” Belichick said. “But I think he’s been able to train. He’s in good shape. He had a good offseason for us. He’s definitely ready to compete.”
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Dec 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long (91) looks up during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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