FOXBOROUGH — Chris Long is feeling right at home.
And it has nothing to do with the first-year Patriot's family ties to the area. It has everything to do with the defensive end finding a franchise that matched his persona. That the franchise is in Massachusetts is just a bonus.
"Adopted, for sure,'' said Long when asked if he feels like a New Englander. "I love this place. I always knew Boston had great fans and now to be a part of it is really cool.''
Long arrived in New England a few months ago but to many it feels like he's been around much longer because of how quickly he established himself as a force on the field and a leader in the locker room.
"I only know one speed of how to do things,'' said Long. "I only know one level of commitment. So I'm committed to what we do here and appreciative to have a role here.''
It's clear the appreciation goes both ways as Long's teammates and coaches gush when speaking about the nine-year veteran, who spent his first eight seasons with the Rams.
"Chris is just a true professional, a guy that comes to us with a lot of experience, but someone that really came to us with a fresh, brand-new attitude and a new start that really wanted to learn our system and is really trying to do what we ask him to do,'' said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
After being released by the Rams in February, Long had no shortage of suitors eager to bring in a veteran presence. As he sifted through and mulled the offers, Long, naturally, sought counsel from his father, Hall of Fame defensive tackle Howie Long.
"I certainly value his opinion not just as a football guy but as a great father,'' said Chris. "I lean on him for advice a lot.''
Though plenty of thought and research went into deciding on Long's future, his father said that in the end it wasn't that hard of a choice.
"We kept coming back to the same question: Why are you playing?'' said Howie Long. "And that conversation was really simple. It was, 'I'm playing to win.' So I said, 'I think if you just continue to ask yourself that question, the answer is one that you'll come to on your own.' And he did. He made the decision."
So far the decision looks like a brilliant one, as Long has helped lead the Patriots to three straight wins as he jump-starts his career coming off a two injury-shortened seasons.
Long has fit in with the Patriots seamlessly, and that's no surprise to his father.
"With Chris, it was always about being the best player and best teammate he could be,'' said Howie Long. "He's just always been that kind of guy. I think that resonates in the locker room that he's in now. And there's a slew of guys that fit that description in that locker room. That's why they are who they are.''
The comparisons between father and son are inevitable, but both are quick to point out that while they understand it, there really is no comparison.
"For me to call myself a defensive end would really be like putting a ribbon on a pig,'' said Howie Long. "I made my living head up on the tackle or in the three-technique on the nose.''
Said Chris Long, "We really play different positions. I mean, we both want the same thing, but it's different. Similar but different.''
Well before Long ever got to the NFL, he had the benefit of learning not only from his father but another NFL legend.
"My defensive line coach in Oakland, Earl Leggett, gave me the skills to try to play through every conceivable blocking combination and how best to handle every situation,'' said Howie Long, who helped coach his sons in high school. "So really, in many ways, Earl was coaching Chris as a young player, through me. Any wisdom I passed on to him, in terms of technique, the way the game is played, were from Earl Leggett.''
On the subject of his father's playing days, Long said he has lots of memories of going to Raiders games, but he doesn't ever remember it being a big deal.
"I didn't realize the significance of it as a kid. He was preaching the whole, 'I'm just your dad thing . . . there's nothing special about what I do,' '' said Long. "That kept us grounded and it's a testament to what a humble guy he is.''
Now, however, Long has appreciation for seeing his father play.
"It's fun to watch that old tape,'' he said. "That guy threw that uppercut like nobody's business. He was badass. [The Raiders] were badass.''
It's a description that is apt for Long, too. He shined in camp this summer — hardly a session went by when he didn't do something eye-catching — and he's continued that into the season.
"I can't say enough good things about that guy,'' said Matthew Slater, who like Long, is the son of a Hall of Famer. "He comes in with a workman-like mentality day in and day out. Chris was brought up to approach and respect this game the right way. He's not an I guy. He just goes out and does the dirty work. And those are the types of guys we appreciate in the Boston area."
As passionate as Long is about football, he has a very strong sense of community and a desire to help others. It's why he started the Waterboys, an organization that helps build wells in East Africa.
"I went to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and I just decided I wanted to do something helpful there. I had never seen poverty on such a scale,'' said Long. "Something that's a basic human right is to have clean water. So many people don't have access to it and it's something we take for granted here, so I tried to rally some guys around the league to join me in this fight to not only raise awareness but raise money and build wells. Last year we raised a ton of money and this year we have new cool campaigns going on for more good stuff.''
While he received his football genes from his father, Howie Long has a pretty good idea where Chris developed his passion for charity work.
"He's got a good mom,'' Howie said of his wife, Diane. "She's rubbed off on him.''