OT Jake Long eager for fresh start with Atlanta Falcons
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Jake Long is eager to revive his career with the Atlanta Falcons.
The No. 1 overall draft pick by Miami in 2008, Long has been plagued by injuries in recent years and didn’t even hook on with a team during training camp. But the Falcons, looking to improve depth on their offensive line, signed the tackle to a one-year deal.
Long went through his first practice with his new team Wednesday. He is listed as third string on the depth chart and isn’t expected to play this weekend against the New York Giants.
“I just want to play football. I love this game,” Long said, standing at a locker with his name written on a piece of tape above his head. “I want to come here and help this team win, whatever capacity that is. I’m going to compete, help this line get better, get better myself, and help this team get better. ”
The 30-year-old Long underwent two surgeries to repair torn ligaments in his right knee the last two years while with the St. Louis Rams. He played only seven games in 2014 and was cut in March in a salary cap move.
He worked out for the Falcons and several other teams, but questions about his health kept him from being signed until after Week 1.
“I understood it,” Long said. “But it was hard to watch. It was hard to watch OTAs and the preseason and especially Week 1. I’ve been chomping at the bit for a while to get back. I can’t wait.”
Long was an All-Pro in 2010 and a four-time Pro Bowler with the Dolphins. He is confident he can get back to elite status.
“I feel good,” he said. “I spent a long offseason getting strong again, getting the knee right. As long as I keep progressing well, I’m excited about what I can do.”
Coach Dan Quinn dodged any questions about how long it might take for Long to get on the field.
“He’s really fit. He looks really strong,” Quinn said Wednesday. “But this is his first practice today. A lot of learning was going on between last night and today for him. Then we’ll start the ball rolling.”
Long has started 96 games in his career.
Now, he’ll do whatever is asked of him, even if it’s a backup role. The Falcons are set at left tackle with Jake Matthews, their top pick in 2014. But right tackle Ryan Schraeder might be more vulnerable, as a third-year player who went undrafted out of Division II Valdosta State.
“It’s been a very long road,” Long said. “I went through a lot of stuff. So I’m excited to be back in a locker room, to feel healthy, to be around the guys and be around football.”
Notes: Devin Hester again missed practice with a toe injury. “I’m getting better,” said Hester, who didn’t play in the season opener. ... Also sitting out practice were WR Julio Jones (hamstring), LB O’Brien Schofield (hip) and DE Malliciah Goodman (elbow), but those were merely precautionary moves. LB Brooks Reed also remains sidelined as he recovers from groin surgery. ... Jones was picked as NFC offensive player of the week after catching nine passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-24 victory over Philadelphia.
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