Chris Long isn’t very concerned about where he will fit in with the Patriots defense. As long as he fits in somewhere, that will suit him just fine.
“I’m just excited to be a piece of the puzzle,’’ Long said Thursday during his first chat with the New England media.
The longtime Rams standout said he wasn’t “bent out of shape’’ when he was released.
“It was time to move on for me, as well,’’ he said.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 268-pound defensive end said he kept an open mind about where his next stop would be, and the opportunity to play with a perennial playoff participant was attractive. An eight-year veteran at 31, Long has yet to taste the postseason.
“A fresh start is great, and I just wanted an opportunity to win, and an opportunity to be a part of something like this organization is great,’’ said Long. “And having the opportunity when it came about, I was very excited. I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
Long tapped into a former Rams source to give him a primer on what to expect when he reports for duty this month for offseason workouts.
“Danny Amendola’s one of my good buddies, so he definitely filled me in on what the culture is like, what a great place it is,’’ said Long.
Additionally, Long talked to a couple of fellow defensive ends about what to expect as he transitions to a new defense.
“I spoke a lot with Rob Ninkovich since my signing,’’ said Long. “He reached out to me, was very welcoming. I talked to Jabaal [Sheard] as well briefly and just told him how excited I am to join their group and excited to get to work. I respect those guys’ games a whole lot.’’
One of the guys Long is expected to help replace, Chandler Jones, reached out to Long via Twitter to congratulate him on landing in New England. He even gave Long his blessing to wear No. 95, though Long said he hasn’t yet settled on a number.
Long, who has been hampered by injuries the last two seasons but said he feels good now, was touched by Jones’s gesture.
“I thought that was great,” said Long. “This is a profession of respect. Everybody respects each other. You should, because it takes a certain type of person to put pads on and play every Sunday.
“It’s a man’s game, so we have a lot of respect for each other. I respect Chandler’s game so much.’’
Though Long has Boston roots — his father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, is from Charlestown and starred at Milford High — he said he hasn’t spent a ton of time here but is eager to carve his own niche in the Hub.
“I’m just excited to be a part of such a great sports town, sports city. I can’t think of a better fan base or collection of great pro sports teams and how passionate these fans are about football, but also with the Celtics, and the Bruins, and the Red Sox. They love all their teams.’’
The NFL announced its preseason schedule Thursday, and the Patriots’ 2016 slate has a very familiar look.
Three of the four opponents are the same as last season: the Saints, Panthers, and Giants. The Bears replace the Packers on this summer’s schedule.
Though dates won’t be set until the teams can mutually agree, the Patriots will host the Saints in Week 1 (Aug. 11-15) and the Bears in Week 2 (Aug. 18-22). They will travel to Carolina (for the second straight year) in Week 3 (Aug. 25-28); and finish up by facing the Giants (for the 12th straight year) in the Meadowlands in Week 4 (Sept. 1-2).
None of New England’s games are scheduled to be on national television.
It’s unknown whether the Patriots will hold any joint practices as they have in previous seasons (they practiced with the Saints in West Virginia last season).
The regular-season schedule will be announced later this month.
The Patriots added more depth to the defensive line with the signing of former Giant Markus Kuhn. Originally a seventh-round pick in 2012, the 6-4, 303-pounder has played in 39 career games with 10 starts, 48 tackles, and 1.5 sacks . . . Brandon King, who spent his rookie season practicing as a safety and linebacker but who made his true mark as a special teams demon, signed his exclusive-rights free agent tender . . . Safety Nate Ebner, originally left off the 12-man US national team for this weekend’s HSBC World Rugby Seven Series, has been called up and will make his debut in Hong Kong. On a leave of absence from the Patriots, Ebner hopes to make the US team for the Rio Olympic Games this summer . . . Long, who said he still works out with his father a couple of times a week, said his parents were “super excited” about Villanova’s win over North Carolina in Monday’s NCAA men’s basketball final. Both his parents are Wildcats. “When he showed up this Tuesday morning, he had his Villanova gear on,” said Long. “He doesn’t pull out the Villanova gear much but he was very proud.’’
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org