The St. Louis Rams rolled out Jake Long for a press conference on Thursday, officially introducing him as a member of the team. It was mostly a lot of the usual platitudes you would expect from these kinds of affairs, but Long did shed some insight into the injuries that have sidelined him over the last two seasons and his current health status.
"I'm feeling great, I'm about four months out of surgery," Long said. "Feeling strong. Working real hard. Just ready to get back on the field and get all this rehab stuff behind me."
Last year it was a torn biceps that wrecked Long's season. The bigger concern for his long-term health picture would be the knee and back injuries. The Rams spent at least four hours of Long's seemingly endless visit to St. Louis earlier this month jammed into the team's MRI machine, just to make sure everything checked out.
Obviously, things did check out with Long who signed a four-year, $34 million contract with the team ... no wonder he thanked owner Stan Kroenke to start the whole thing on Thursday. That contract does protect the team to some extent, making it relatively easy to part ways with him after the first two seasons.
It may not come to that, not if Long's assessment of his current health holds over the life of the deal.
"Now, honestly, this is the best I've felt in years -- maybe ever," he said. "I'm just excited to get back to my old self."
Here's a video of thing from the Rams' corporate media partner 101 ESPN, which can occasionally be useful for things.
Here's the transcript.
General Manager Les Snead: "We want to welcome Jake Long and his beautiful bride - probably better half - dynamic wife, Jackie to the Rams' family. If I had any statement to say - I think we've said many times before - teams win games, individuals don't, but you need a lot of talented individuals to make up good teams. Within each team there's position groups and things like that, that have to play kind of within the team in their own team. One of those groups is the offensive line. I always say the sum of the parts needs to be better than the individuals because they have to work together. But Jake's got...mom, dad, God gave him a lot talent. I can remember way back when he was coming out of Michigan, he's got what it takes in the intangible department to help bring that group together."
Head Coach Jeff Fisher: "From a coaching perspective, obviously, we've got to thank the work that went in on behalf of Les and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Chief Operating Officer) Kevin (Demoff) and the support we got from (Owner) Stan (Kroenke) and then of course Jake and Jackie and his representatives. It was a long process. It went a little bit longer than we thought it would go. It's been some time that's passed since the time we agreed to terms, but we're finally excited to have Jake in the building."
Jake Long: "I'll just start off and say, thank you to Mr. Kroenke, Les and Coach Fisher and Kevin Demoff for giving me this opportunity to be part of the Rams. It's an amazing honor. I'm very excited and I'm ready to get to work and win a lot of games and championships. I'm ready to get it going."
(On what he did when he returned to Miami after visiting with the Rams)
Long: "Just getting my whole life in order. I went back home. My wife and I just slept on the decision and ended up committing here. I'm very excited about it. Then, just trying to move our lives and figuring everything out. We drove up last Saturday and moved here. So, we're here now for good."
(On if he had second thoughts about coming to St. Louis when he saw the snow here)
Long: "No, not at all. Actually, I grew up in Michigan, so I'm used to that type of weather. My wife grew up in northern Nevada, so she's used to the snow. We've been out of it for a little bit, but it's like riding a bike. We adapted well in it."
(On what he thinks he can bring to the team)
Long: "I'm going to bring what I always bring - leadership. I'm going to come in day one and I'm the type of guy that leads by example. I love to come into practice and work, get better every single day, learn from the coaches and just try to help this offense, this team win games. I'm going to do everything I can to help this team get better."
(On why he didn't sign with the team during his visit)
Long: "That's the business side of it and both sides want to be happy with the deal. I think we all wish it would've gotten done a little bit quicker. It took a little longer, just thought about it for a little bit, and made the right decision. I'm just happy that it finally got done."
(On Miami allowing him to reach free agency)
Long: "I can't speak for them. All I can say about Miami, is they gave me my start in the NFL. Mr. (Stephen) Ross is an amazing owner. I have nothing but great things to say about him and the fans and the teammates I played with there. That was my home for the last five years. It was just time to move on. It was time to make a decision if I wanted to go somewhere and this was the right decision for myself and my wife. I'm very happy to be a part of St. Louis."
(On what rehab he has left)
Long: "I've been working with (Head Athletic Trainer) Reggie (Scott) the trainer. (I) Started Monday and I'm feeling great. I'm about four months out of surgery and feeling strong and working real hard and just ready to get back out on the field and get all this rehab stuff behind me. I'm feeling great."
(On if he is aware of Rams former T Orlando Pace and if he grew up watching him play)
Long: "Absolutely. He's one of the greats to play, especially a Big Ten guy. I'd love watching him in the pass pro(tection), no one barely ever got around him and then just maul people in the run game. He's definitely a guy that I grew up watching and to be able to follow in his footsteps here, I'm excited about."
Snead: "Can I say something? That's a politically correct answer. There's no way a Michigan guy ever watched an Ohio State guy."
Long: "I said Big Ten guy. He's a Big Ten guy."
(On how frustrating it was to play through injuries)
Long: "It was definitely frustrating. The last couple years, I've had to battle through some injuries and it definitely wasn't ideal, but I think I battled through them well. Now, honestly, this is the best I've felt in years - maybe ever. I'm just excited to get back to my old self and to feeling healthy and strong and go out there and help this team win."
(On if he has had a chance to talk with QB Sam Bradford)
Long: "Yes. Actually, he's been in this whole week, so met him on Monday and been able to talk to him the last few days. Watched him from afar these last few years in the NFL, just a big fan of his. Big guy, strong guy, tough, has a rocket for an arm and I'm really excited to play for him."
(On Bradford throwing for a lot of yards against Miami)
Long: "Yeah, he's a hell of a quarterback and young. He's only going to get better and just a tough guy. I've heard a lot of great things about him."
(On if Bradford hugged him when they met)
Long: "No, it was all smiles. I was excited to meet him. I think he was excited. It's going to fun to get out to work and actually get out to football and make it happen."
(On what Coach Fisher needed to see to make him comfortable with this acquisition)
Fisher: "Well, initially when the process started our interest was in the medical, just to see how in fact Jake was. I felt kind of bad for him because he had to spend a week in the MRI tube. But, when we got through it, we got the thumbs up. He felt great, our doctors felt really good about it and then that's really when we started the process."
(On how adding a Pro Bowl left tackle changes the team)
Fisher: "Well, it creates a comfort level for the quarterback because he can trust that his backside is protected and allows us to do different things with protections, allows us to do different things with the backs, with tight ends and such. Not only was Jake - early in his career, his short career at this point - one of the best pass protector in the game, he's also an outstanding run blocker and that's a big part of our offense."
(On if Long will be in St. Louis for a while now)
Long: "I'm here for good. We drove up Saturday from Miami. It took about 20 hours and brought all our clothes and everything, so we're here for good."