Chris Long (Photo: Getty Images)
When you’re a fan of a team, players come and go by the dozens.
It’s the nature of sports: Players are replaceable; the game goes on. As Jerry Seinfeld once noted, we’re basically rooting for the laundry.
Some players manage to leave an indelible mark for their on-field excellence. A smaller number are remembered for their off-field contributions.
Then there’s Chris Long.
While he has only spent two seasons here, Long leaves a legacy that Philadelphia fans should celebrate for years.
I bring this up today because it’s increasingly apparent Long’s days as an Eagle are over. He has hinted since the season ended that he’s unlikely to return, and made it more clear last Friday, tweeting: “I’m not willing to come back and play 10-15 base plays a game. I’m overqualified and it’s a lot of sacrifice... when I don’t have any opportunities to help the team.”
As a player, Long was good, not great, in midnight green over the past two seasons. We didn’t get the best of his career, most of which came in St. Louis.
Still, he totaled 11.5 sacks and 38 quarterback hits. Along with that came six forced fumbles – mostly at critical points in games. He also had a key recovery of a Case Keenum fumble in the 2017 NFC Championship Game against Minnesota.
More so, Long will be remembered as a terrific guy in the locker room and the community. Former Eagles tight end Brent Celek called him, “one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had.” Celek and Long stood together, if you recall, at the Eagles Super Bowl LII celebration, Celek wearing a throwback Harold Carmichael jersey and Long adorned in an Allen Iverson jersey and full-length fur coat.
The NFL recognized Long in February with its Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which honors a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. Long’s good deeds are too many to list here, but they start with his “Waterboys” foundation, which has brought clean water to more than 211,000 impoverished people in East Africa.
And don’t forget that Long donated his entire $1 million 2017 salary to charities funding scholarships and promoting educational equality. This came after he was appalled by the violent White Nationalist protests in his hometown of Charlottesville, VA.
When he received the Walter Payton Award, Long said, “The best teammates we have are our fans. They’re the lifeblood of our productivity.” He specifically thanked Eagles rooters, saying, “You’re all a part of my fabric forever.”
He often interacts with those fans — plus a few critics _ on Twitter (@JOEL9ONE
), offering candid opinions and occasionally acerbic commentary. And this month, Long began writing a weekly “Game of Thrones” wrap up for Sports Illustrated that’s a must-read for any GOT geek.
I’ve covered sports in Philadelphia for three decades. The current batch of Eagles — including guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Lane Johnson, and Carson Wentz — is the most solid, fan-friendly, community-oriented team I’ve seen.
Since last season ended, Long and his coaches apparently talked honestly about his role for 2019. The Eagles have signed defensive end Vinny Curry in free agency and drafted Penn State’s Shareef Miller. Long sees little room for himself in the rotation.
So, by his choice, he will likely move on. I’m not sure whether he’ll retire at 34 or try to help another team win the Super Bowl. I’ll wish him the best in whatever he takes on.
The nature of pro sports is that players come and go. This one, we should make sure to remember.