ST. LOUIS - Jake Long knows there are doubts.
While no one questions the talent of the four-time Pro Bowl left guard, some wonder if the new addition to the St. Louis Rams offensive line will be limited by something completely out of his control. Recently, injuries everything from bad shoulders, knees, biceps and triceps have had a way of slowing Long down. His last two seasons in Miami ended with him on the injured reserve.
"It's very frustrating, and definitely not ideal," Long said Thursday afternoon. "But it happens."
The massive man (6-foot-7, 300-plus pounds) had just finished his first public appearance as a Ram, a question-and-answer session with St. Louis media that had an uncanny way of coming back to the topic of injuries.
"You're bound to get hurt in this game," he said. "You've got to rehab and get over it."
The No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft knows the process well. And St. Louis brass had enough faith in him after a rigorous round of tests that included Long being jammed into an MRI tube again and again that they offered him a four-year deal worth 34 million.
"Initially, when the process started, our interest was in the medical, just to see how Jake was" Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Thursday. "But, when we got through it, we got the thumbs up. He felt great, our doctors felt really good about it."
That led to the conclusion of the deal, a 20-hour drive from Miami and Thursday's debut, which featured the unveiling of Long's No. 77 jersey in gold and blue. He couldn't help but reflect on the surreality that this scene could have easily happened much sooner.
When Miami picked him first in the 2008 draft, the Rams had the second pick. Before Long signed early with the Dolphins, he had visited St. Louis, met with team officials and toured the facilities.
"I thought, if I wasn't going to go No. 1 to the Dolphins, there was a huge chance that I'd come here," he said.
Now, he's back. But this time, the 27-year-old has been a bit more beat up than he was as a soon-to-be rookie fresh out of Michigan maize and blue. For the doubters, Long had news.
"Honestly, this is the best I've felt in years," he said. "Maybe ever."
When asked about that comment later, he said it's not just telling folks what they want to hear.
"I want to come out and show people I'm healthy," he said. "I want to help this team win."