There are few things that are thrust into the NFL spotlight more than when players at three key positions struggle in a football game – quarterback, cornerback and left tackle.
Part of that redesign on the fly was to sign veteran offensive tackle Jake Long. In his debut Sunday, things couldn’t have been much worse. He was on the field for just 13 plays, but two of those resulted in strip-sacks of quarterback Sam Bradford.
Tuesday after practice, Long took ownership of his poor play and said he is determined not to see a repeat of Sunday’s sub-par play. He refused to say that coming to a new system was a contributing factor to his ineffectiveness Sunday.
“There’s no excuses,” Long said. “I’ve got to get better. The more practice I get, I’ve got to keep working to get better.”
He also wouldn’t use the recent injury history that has derailed his career after being the first overall pick in the 2008 draft.
He has played only a couple dozen snaps since 2014, but said his body wasn’t the issue, saying it was technique, not injuries, that were the cause of his struggles on Sunday.
“The body felt good, but I didn’t play well enough – nowhere near well enough,” Long said. “I’ve got to try to keep getting better. When you get the opportunity, you’ve got to prove it – and I will – and keep getting better in practice.”
He also didn’t use the lack of practice reps as a crutch. He may not have been 100 percent prepared to step in and play such a critical position as left tackle, but he wasn’t allowing that to minimize what he needs to do as part of the offensive line unit.
As Long sees it, the Vikings showed faith in him when they signed him. Now he needs to live up to that faith.
“They trust me when they put me in there,” Long said. “I’ve got to earn that trust. We’ve got practice this week. I’ve got to keep getting out there and getting better.”
While the Vikings came into Sunday’s game with a plan of rotating their tackles, inserting Long at left tackle after the game had begun and shifting starting left tackle T.J. Clemmings over to right tackle.
Long didn’t know exactly when he was going to get the call, but said that wasn’t an issue. He knew he was going to come into the game at some point and was prepared when it happened. The silver lining for Long was that he is convinced the mistakes he made are fixable.
“It was fine,” Long said. “I made a couple of mistakes, but it’s nothing I can’t correct, so we’ll just go from there.”
In his last act of contrition, Long wasn’t going to allow game rust from being an issue. Mike Zimmer said following the game that it was clear that Long wasn’t game-ready at the time he was on the field, but he is confident that with time and more assimilation into the offense he can provide stability to a line in flux.
Long believes he is 100 percent healthy after missing all but about a dozen plays last year. Like so many of his answers to questions Tuesday, he refused to make excuses for his level of play and wouldn’t use his surgically repaired knee as rationale for not playing at a high level.
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“I was fine,” Long said. ‘My body feels great. My knee feels great. My body’s not an issue. There’s not any excuses. I can’t make those excuses. I can’t say it’s rust. I can’t do that. I have to keep getting better at practice and I will. It feels good to get back out there, but I’ve got to play better.”null