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Jake Long injury: Will Rams OT return for the start of the 2014 season?

Jeff Fisher sounded an optimistic note about when the Rams left tackle might be able to return.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Jeff Fisher confirmed what he feared about Jake Long. The St. Louis Rams left tackle had indeed torn his ACL, as well as his MCL, in Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the injury happening this late in the year, it put Long's status for the start of the 2014 season in doubt. Or maybe it didn't.

"It was confirmed Jake has a torn ACL and MCL," Fisher said. "So with respect to the fact that there also is the MCL included, the surgery probably will be delayed maybe four to six weeks."

Doctors want Long's MCL to heal on its own before operating to repair the ACL, the reason for delaying the surgery.

"You want the MCL to scar back down and then he'll gain some strength in the quad," Fisher said. "Then, they'll go ahead and fix the ACL."

Fisher went on to express a shade of optimism about Long's return to the field. When asked if it was doubtful that Long would be ready to start the next season, Fisher responded, "I wouldn't say 'doubtful.'

"I think there's a difference between a skilled player and an interior lineman, especially offensive lineman. Now this is the first one that I've been associated with from an offensive line standpoint and an ACL, but doctors were very optimistic, as he was."

Adrian Peterson changed the way we think about ACL injuries and the recovery process. He hurt his in Week 16 during the 2011 season and returned for his all-world season in 2012. RGIII rushed back from his ACL injury too, but that didn't work out quite like AP.

Long obviously isn't the first offensive lineman to tear his ACL. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL early in the season. Seahawks lineman James Carpenter tore his in November 2011, and he wasn't able to return until October of the next season.

A nine-month recovery and rehab process would put Long back on the field in September. However, that would mean no training camp time for the left tackle. That makes it harder to buy into the notion that he'd be ready to play in Week 1. Fisher's got a history since arriving in St. Louis of easing players who miss significant camp time back into the mix.

A torn ACL and MCL raise another red flag for Long. This is now the third season in a row that he's suffered a major injury. Since 2011, he's torn his triceps and bicep, dealt with lower back injury and sprained his MCL back in August of 2012, the same one he tore on Sunday.

Nagging injuries ate into Long's effectiveness during his last two seasons with the Dolphins, reducing his free agent price tag. He's bounced back nicely with the Rams this season, but a third year in a row with a major injury underscores the Rams need for a viable backup plan in 2014.