Chris Long announced his retirement from the NFL over the weekend, closing the book on a highly successful 11-year career that included two Super Bowl championships.
In an interview for Peter King’s “Football Morning in America” column Monday, Long reflected on his long NFL journey, including the one year he spent with the New England Patriots in 2016.
Long singled out Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whom he credited for greatly expanding his football knowledge.
“In New England, I learned so much about football,” Long told King. “I always thought I was a smart player, even though I never thought about anything but the six inches in front of my face. In New England, I was forced to learn so many schematic concepts. In my career playing football, nobody asked me to do as much as Bill Belichick did.
“I might be 3-technique, or a linebacker, or a linebacker dropping into coverage more than ever, or playing inside more than ever. I’ll always remember how much I learned watching Bill in practice. He can coach any position as good as any position coach in (the) league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position — at the highest level. And the quality of the dudes. Solid men. The right kind of people.”
Long didn’t always agree with the way Belichick utilized him — he opted to leave for the Philadelphia Eagles after just one season largely because of the position he was asked to play in New England — but had great respect for the Patriots’ winning culture.
After not reaching the playoffs in any of his first eight seasons (all with the St. Louis Rams), Long won a Super Bowl with New England, drawing a key holding penalty to help the Patriots complete their historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. He then beat the Pats to win another title the following year as a member of the Eagles.
“That Super Bowl against Atlanta … when we were way behind, I’m thinking, ‘I waited my whole life to be here, and this is a nightmare,” Long told King. “This is the worst nightmare I have ever had.’ If we lost that night, I very possibly would have retired a bitter man. But winning it breathed life into me.”
Long also saluted Tom Brady, saying he “cannot understand how you can dislike” the 41-year-old Patriots quarterback.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images