Chris Long is in a unique position to share what makes Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots stand out from the pack.
The veteran defensive end, who announced his retirement over the weekend, played 11 NFL seasons for three teams under six different head coaches. He saw the Patriots at their finest, winning a Super Bowl during his lone season in New England in 2016.
In an interview with NBC Sports' Peter King, Long confirmed his experience with the Patriots was unlike any other thanks in part to Belichick's coaching genius.
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 league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position—at the highest level.
Long indeed was a versatile asset for Belichick, appearing in all 16 games while starting seven on a Patriots defense that allowed the fewest points per game (15.6) in the NFL.
The 34-year-old also got a front-row seat to watch Brady at work. But Long told King the legendary quarterback hardly carried himself like one in the Patriots' locker room.
Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy. When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.
Long's experience with Brady matches that of several NFL veterans whose opinions of the 41-year-old QB changed when they became teammates.
Brady may have helped extend Long's career, too: Long told King he might have "retired a bitter man" had the Patriots not staged a historic comeback to win Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.
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