CLEVELAND -- St. Louis Rams left tackle Jake Long played in his first game on Saturday since having January knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL. Eager to knock off the rust, Long played more than he was originally scheduled to after a little bit of lobbying.
Judging by how Long's time in the game went, he's going to need some more work in the preseason finale against Miami on Thursday to be closer to regular-season ready.
"We’ve got starters [who] need to play a little bit more," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "Jake played more plays than we expected because he wanted to play more plays than expected."
Before Saturday night, Long hadn't played since the third offensive play of the team's penultimate game on Dec. 22, 2013 against Tampa Bay. Long tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee early in that game and had the necessary surgeries in January.
All along, the Rams maintained that Long could be back in time to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 7 against Minnesota and return to exhibition games about halfway through the preseason. That seemed a bit optimistic at the time, but Long has been practicing on a full-time basis for the better part of the past two-plus weeks.
The Rams held Long out of the second preseason game, but he got the start against the Cleveland Browns. As you'd might expect, Long's return was noticeably shaky, especially on the opening series.
"The game speed picks up so there’s definitely some rust and some bad plays I had," Long said. "It was good that I can get that out in the preseason and get some plays in before the start of the season."
On the team's first drive, Long picked up penalties for illegal hands to the face and a false start, costing the Rams 15 yards. Beyond that, Long was in the midst of what appeared to be a miscommunication that led to linebacker Barkevious Mingo blowing past him and creating the pressure that eventually resulted in linebacker Paul Kruger hitting quarterback Sam Bradford on his left knee.
Bradford bounced back up after that hit, but he didn't five plays and two penalties later when Cleveland end Armonty Bryant again beat Long to get to Bradford. Bryant landed awkwardly on Bradford's own surgically repaired knee and exited the game with an injury that is to be determined by further tests today.
"It’s horrible whenever guys go down, especially Sam, he’s been working so hard, but we’re hoping for the best and we’ll see what happens," Long said.
Long played 27 snaps on the evening, which amounted to two full series as the Rams controlled the ball and clock for most of the first half. He said he felt better as the game went along.
"I was going to play as long as they kept me in there," Long said. "I was feeling good, and I was moving around well and was really happy with it so I wanted to get out there, get the game speed and knock the rust off."