Rams, DE Long agree to 4-year contract extension

Monday, July 30, 2012
Rams defensive end Chris Long cools off between reps during the first day of training camp Sunday in St. Louis. (TOM GANNAM ~ Associated Press)

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams signaled their commitment to building a winner right before the start of training camp by agreeing to terms with defensive end Chris Long on a four-year contract extension through the 2016 season.

Getting the deal done before training camp was a priority for Long.

"It's huge for me," Long said after a two-hour workout ended early Sunday night. "You like to know where you stand, and I feel really good about obviously their commitment to me. When it turns around, I want to be a part of it."

Getting other core players locked up is a priority for the new regime led by coach Jeff Fisher.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis could be next on the list given that he's entering the final year of his contract like Long. The Rams have had preliminary talks with running back Steven Jackson, who is coming off his seventh consecutive 1,000-yard season and is signed for two more years.

The Rams were 2-14 last year, tied for the worst record in the NFL, and have averaged just three victories over the last five seasons. They're spending like winners under Fisher, who is back in coaching after a year away from the NFL.

"He's not the only one we're working on," Fisher said about Long. "We're just happy. He's had a great start to his career and we want to give him a chance to really settle in here and be one of the mainstays on our defense."

Jackson, who reported to camp with 5 percent body fat, said he gave Long "a big hug" when he learned of the new deal.

"I think he was one of the pillars of our defense last year, and he's very deserving of what he just signed," Jackson said. "It's actually nice to see some guys drafted and not move. Actually we keep them around, so I was really stoked for him."

As for his future with the Rams, Jackson referenced his career achievements and said he wasn't worried about it, adding "I'm here ready to work."

Quarterback Sam Bradford, who is signed through 2015, said Long was not just a team leader but one of his best friends on the squad.

"So I'm extremely excited he's going to be around here for five more years," Bradford said. "And hopefully I will, too."

The Fisher factor seems to have energized fans. An estimated 1,602 attended the opening workout and cheered a few breakaway runs by Jackson.

The 27-year-old Long was seventh in the NFL with 13 sacks last year, which topped his previous best of 8 1/2 sacks. He had a three-sack game against the Saints. He was entering the final year of a six-year, $56.5 million contract he signed after the Rams drafted him No. 2 overall out of Virginia in 2008.

The sixth year of the deal was voided after Long met certain incentives. Although the Rams have plenty of salary cap space, Long's cap number for 2012 was $18.3 million.

"It's good to talk about because I'm excited to be here for five more years," Long said. "That's why I like talking about because I'm excited about the future.

"We've got a bunch of guys working really hard out here for the same goals -- to win a championship."

Long's sack total has increased every season. He had a six-game sack streak and totaled 10 in a nine-game stretch despite nursing a high left ankle sprain that limited him in practice last year. He also led the Rams with 15 quarterback pressures and 16 quarterback hits.

Long's play was one of the highlights for a 2-14 team. His sack total tied the NFL season best by his Hall of Fame father, Howie Long, who played defensive tackle for the Raiders. Howie Long, an analyst with Fox Sports, had three straight years with double-digit sacks from 1983 to 1985.

"He was doing it from a lot of different spots on the line, and he's him, I'm me," the younger Long said. "It was nice to get the same number, but winning would have been everything.

"We're all super excited to be a part of something like this, and we're going to be able to turn this thing around."

Fisher is energized, too.

"I feel like this is my first one all over again," Fisher said.

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