Chris Long: Eagles give chance to 'prove myself all over again'

Chris Long: Eagles give chance to 'prove myself all over again'

Chris Long probably could have stayed with the Patriots and had a pretty darn good chance to rack up another Super Bowl ring.

Or two.

At this point in his career? Long was after something different.

It was fun playing for the Patriots and winning a Super Bowl in his ninth NFL season. But what he really wants is to finish his career with a team where he can really be a difference maker on the field.

And the Eagles, with whom he can be a pure pass rusher in Jim Schwartz's classic 4-3 defense, offered that far more than New England, where he spent most of last season lined up inside as a defensive tackle.

Is there really something bigger than having a tremendous chance at winning another Super Bowl ring?

For Long, there is.

"At the end of the day I have to follow my heart and that's served me well, for the most part," Long said. "Sometimes it gets me in trouble. But I think I just wanted to be in a situation where I was able to be proud of what I put on the field every Sunday.

"I think every team has a chance to compete for championships at the beginning of the season. It's no foregone conclusion you go anywhere and do anything.

"So I think that when I figured out there might be an opportunity for me to come to a great situation like this with a team that is on the rise and a lot of excitement in the building and the chance to compete for the role I was looking for, (that's) where I wanted to be."

Long had 50 1/2 sacks in his first six NFL seasons, including 13 for the Rams in 2011, 11 1/2 in 2012 and 8 1/2 in 2013. His 33 sacks during that three-year period were fifth-most in the NFL during that three-year span.

But injuries and a poor fit in New England limited him to eight sacks over the last three years.

Which led him to Philly.

"I had a great opportunity to go to New England and win a championship and that's the goal every year for every team in the league," he said.

"But at the end of the day, I wanted to get back to playing football the way that I played for a long time. And that's something that gave me great joy, taking the field every Sunday and playing to the best of my abilities and in a situation that schematically I felt like I was really being the best me I could be.

"It was a real blessing to be a part of that team last year, but I wanted to towards the end of my career be in a situation to prove myself all over again.

"And that's what keeps me hungry and excited and I think this is a great fit because it gives me that opportunity."

The Eagles signed the 32-year-old Long last week to an incentive-laden two-year, $4.5 million contract.

With their starting defensive end rotation of Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith and Brandon Graham limited to just 15 1/2 combined sacks last year, the Eagles are desperate for pass pressure.

They released Barwin -- Long's close friend. Barwin signed with the Rams, Long's former team, and the Eagles essentially replaced him with Long.

"The No. 1 thing when I started free agency was a good football fit," Long said. "It wasn't about the money for me. I've been lucky to make a good amount of money playing football. It wasn't about anything but getting back to the player that I was or as close as you can be to that and that's something that I'm very driven to do.

"For me, No. 1 was the football fit and a team that is going to have a chance to win a lot of football games, and I feel like when you watch them play, it's obvious this organization is moving in the right direction.

"When we got ready for the Super Bowl and watching the Falcons, I spent a lot of time watching Philly's defense because they were obviously very talented and played Atlanta great and they really jumped off the screen at you.

"And you say, in free agency, once it starts, 'Yeah, I do remember watching those guys, and, 'Man, that would be cool to be a part of something like that,' and that’s where I wanted to be."

Long is at an age where most players are winding down.

Only two players 32 or older in Eagles history have ever recorded more than 6 1/2 sacks in a season -- William Fuller in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and Darren Howard in 2008.

But Long, who didn't miss a game from opening day 2008 through September 2014, said he's healthy and fit and ready to be a big part of this defense.

"I feel like I have a lot left, I really do," he said. "There was a time when I was injured and playing really bad and cut (by the Rams) -- rightfully so -- where I wasn't sure what my future in football was.

"But I was really lucky to take that stuff and for Coach Belichick to take that chance in me and I found out I still have a lot left in the tank. I didn’t miss a practice, didn’t miss a game last year, and that's something I was really proud of.

"I was able to play hard and I think at a pretty high level but I know I have to strike while the iron's hot. Being 32, I wanted to be in the right place, and this is the right place for me."

More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

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More money might not be enough to keep Chris Long in Philly

The Eagles have given veteran defensive end Chris Long a raise, but according to one report, Long is concerned enough about his playing time with the Eagles that he's mulling his options regarding his future.

What is certain is that at some point before March 15, Long signed a new contract with the Eagles that increases his 2018 base salary from $1 million non-guaranteed to $2½ million fully guaranteed.

However, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported Monday that Long may decide he doesn't want to accept the new contract — which he already signed.

According to Silver, Long is concerned about how many snaps he would get as a third-down rusher following the addition of Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett.

The Eagles officially acquired Bennett on March 14, although the deal was reported a week earlier. Long's new contract was filed with the NFLPA on March 15, but there is a good chance he agreed to it and signed it before the Bennett acquisition.

Whether or not Long knew Bennett was coming to the Eagles when he signed the restructured deal is unknown. But at some point Long knew about their interest in Bennett and even gave Bennett a "glowing recommendation" when the Eagles asked, according to an interview Long gave to SBNation.  

Long wouldn't appear to have many options. He could retire, in which case he would have to return the $500,000 bonus he received from the Eagles last week.

He could request a trade, which would be bizarre for someone who signed a contract extension just a few days earlier.

Or he could simply play under the terms of the contract restructure and pay increase, which was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia with a source familiar with the renegotiation.

As for the contract itself, including that $500,000 roster bonus — which was also in the previous version of the contract — Long would receive $3 million guaranteed this year instead of $1.5 million non-guaranteed plus $750,000 in easily achieved roster bonuses.

Long had five sacks and forced four fumbles last year as a rotational defensive end. He wound up playing 496 snaps, 10th-most on the defense and only about 10 per game fewer than starter and Pro Bowler Brandon Graham and five per game fewer than starter Vinny Curry, who the Eagles released.

Long, who turns 33 next week, has 63½ career sacks. His 5.0 sacks last year were his most since 2013. He's won back-to-back Super Bowls the last two years with the Eagles and Patriots.

What happens next?

Long has demonstrated that the money is secondary to him. He donated his entire 2017 base salary to charity.

At some point very soon, the Eagles will need him to decide whether he's even going to have a 2018 base salary.

Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

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Terrell Owens digs deep to find his Hall of Fame presenter

A day after we found out that Brian Dawkins picked Troy Vincent to introduce him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, Terrell Owens has picked his presenter. 

No surprise: It's not Donovan McNabb.

After alienating many people in the league throughout his tremendous career, Owens picked a name from his early days. Longtime NFL assistant coach George Stewart, who was Owens' receivers coach in San Francisco, will introduce T.O. at the 2018 induction. 

In a video released by the Hall of Fame, Owens said Stewart "knew what to get out of me."

Now special teams coordinator and assistant head coach for the Chargers, Stewart has been an NFL coach for three decades. He began his time in San Francisco in 1996 (Owens' rookie season) as a special teams coach but was their wide receivers coach from 2000-02.

"Things that George Stewart may say, it may be shocking to a lot of people, but not to him because he knows who I am," Owens said. "... To know who Terrell Owens is, you really have to spend some time with him. Fast forward, George Stewart became a father figure to me."

The first season Stewart became the 49ers' receivers coach, Owens went to his first of six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro for the first of five times in his career. Owens was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in all three of the seasons that Stewart held the position in San Francisco. 

Of course, Owens' growth under Stewart led to his becoming one of the biggest stars in the NFL.

Eventually, Owens forced his way out of San Francisco and got to Philadelphia. With the Eagles, Owens had a short and tumultuous two seasons, but was also dynamic on the field and nearly helped them pull off a Super Bowl win over the Patriots. 

Owens averaged 93.5 receiving yards per game during his time in Philadelphia, the highest average in franchise history. It wasn't his play that led to his downfall in Philly. It was his beef with McNabb, along with his attempt to strong-arm the Eagles into a new contract. 

Owens was a divisive personality for his entire career. It's likely the reason it took him three tries to make it into the Hall of Fame. Because his numbers don't lie: He's one of the best receivers of all time.