Jake Long still 'knocking off the rust'

It's been quite the wait for Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Jake Long, but he's finally ready to put his injury woes behind him on Sunday as he looks to see his first game action of the 2016 season.

It's been a series of setbacks for the four-time Pro Bowler. Long, signed by the Vikings last week amidst an injury crisis along the offensive line, only featured on 11 snaps a season ago with the Atlanta Falcons, a year which he viewed as crucial to his comeback plans following back-to-back seasons with torn knee ligaments. It didn't work out for the 2010 first-team All-Pro, and he was released during the offseason.

The next stage in Long's career appeared to be with Baltimore Ravens. The former first-overall pick agreed to a one year deal with the team, however failed to sign a contract after a dispute over an injury clause inserted in to the deal. Frustrated, Long once again found himself without a team and facing an uncertain future for his once promising NFL career.

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After injuries to Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, Long finally received the call he'd been waiting for. The undefeated Minnesota Vikings brought him to Winter Park for a workout, and a deal was signed less than 24 hours later. It's an opportunity Long is eager to seize in order to prove he still has what it takes to play in the NFL.

“I feel great,” Long said via Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune. “I’ve been working hard for a very long time for this opportunity. So whenever my number is called, I’ll be ready to go.”

Understandably, Long has encountered some rust since being thrust back in to the fire after being out for so long, with the former Michigan Wolverine admitting as much. He's began operating at left tackle in hopes of supplanting beleaguered deputy T.J. Clemmings, and so far Head Coach Mike Zimmer likes what he sees from his new anchor.

“I think good,” Zimmer said of Long's play. “I haven’t seen [Monday’s tape] yet and they had 12 plays [last week] or something, so it’s kind of hard to evaluate on that right now.”

Whether or not Long immediately replaces Clemmings remains to be seen, but one thing's for certain: Zimmer is more optimistic about an early start than he was quarterback Sam Bradford.

“It’s probably not as hard as being the quarterback and coming in,” he said.

Let's hope so, because the Vikings offense could depend on it. 

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