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Chris Long Retires With Comments on the Patriots That Will Make Your Heart Glow

Chris Long

From Chris Long’s retirement announcement on FMIA:

“In New England, I learned so much about football. I always thought I was a smart player, even though I never thought about anything but the six inches in front of my face. In New England, I was forced to learn so many schematic concepts. 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. And the quality of the dudes. Solid men. The right kind of people.

“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.

“That Super Bowl against Atlanta … when we were way behind, I’m thinking, ‘I waited my whole life to be here, and this is a nightmare. This is the worst nightmare I have ever had.’ If we lost that night, I very possibly would have retired a bitter man. But winning it breathed life into me.”

Now this is an emotionally satisfying conclusion. This is how you properly complete a great character’s story arc. No sending a guy off in exile to defend a wall that’s broken wide open to defend a world against a threat that doesn’t exist anymore. No making him be the hand to a king who’s been mostly absent for the last two seasons. And no taking a girl who can change her face to become anything and having her go sail away like she’s filming a mid-90s Beck’s ad.

No, when you conclude a hero’s journey, you do it just like Chris Long has. A No. 2 overall pick who was dragged into a losing culture in St. Louis and considered his career a failure. Until he told his agent “I don’t care if I have to play for five dollars. Get me to New England. Then he not only won a championship, he drew a holding call that pushed the Falcons out of field goal range with them leading 28-9 and one score away from putting the game out of reach. And that did more than just validate his career, it inspired him to go Philadelphia and beat his old team to win again. And now he’s walking away on his own terms. To go build clean wells in impoverished areas around the world. And it deserves celebrating.

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But mostly I’m here to talk about Long’s impressions about his time with the Patriots. It speaks volumes that a guy who had an 11-year career spends so much of his retirement announcement talking about that one year he spent in New England. Bill Belichick teaching him things he’d never done before. Giving him responsibilities he’d never had. Showing him all the concepts of the defense because here, all the parts have to move in sync. Coaching up the entire roster with the finer points of all the positions.

And Tom Brady? The most humble and approachable superstar in all of sports. You can’t help but laugh when Long references Lebron. Can you in your wildest, peyote-induced fever dream imagining him approaching a noob on his first day, shaking hands and saying “Hi, I’m Lebron”? It’s unimaginable. Hell, he wouldn’t have one of his personal assistants do that. I don’t how the people who last year were claiming Brady is an aloof loner who makes the rookies call him “Sir” will take this. But to me it’s validation of all the times I said what a steaming pile of horse shit that story was.

Frankly, I’m glad Chris Long is taking this route. Things didn’t necessarily end great for him here as his playing time was reduced as that 2016 went on and the Pats were transitioning more and more to Trey Flowers. Even Jabaal Sheard got more reps than he did in the playoffs. But no hard feelings. Nothing personal. And you have to appreciate a guy who appreciates what his time here did for his career and his life.

So farewell and safe travels to a class act. A son of a son of Charlestown. And yet another Patriot player who can never pay for his drink in New England ever again.