FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After seven years together with the St. Louis Rams, Chris Long and James Laurinaitis were reunited on the practice field Tuesday -- Long now with the New England Patriots, Laurinaitis with the New Orleans Saints.
But it didn't take long for the two close friends to get back into their familiar groove, taking turns praising and ribbing each other during a joint interview with ESPN.
"I like to see how he's doing, if they're holding him together with tape down in New Orleans. He's pretty old," Long, 31, said of Laurinaitis, 29.
"Look, he's been my hero since Day 1," Laurinaitis said -- a half-smile creeping up because he was only half-joking. "When I showed up to Rams park, I just said, 'Hey, I’m gonna copy everything that Chris Long does.' Then (he was wearing No.) 72, then when he changed his number (to 91), I even thought about changing my number. But I'm not as creative as him, so I couldn't think of another one."
Long, meanwhile, tried to sabotage the interview, first pointing out that Laurinaitis is the leading tackler in Rams history, then asking if the camera could cut.
Both lit up, however, when asked if they planned to watch their former team -- which has also found a new home in Los Angeles -- on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
"Oh, yeah," Long said.
"Absolutely," Laurinaitis echoed.
Long then asked when it was on, and when Laurinaitis told him Tuesday night, Long said, "Viewing party!"
"I'm watching 'Hard Knocks' just for William Hayes," Laurinaitis said, with Long quickly agreeing.
Both veterans were naturally disappointed when they were released on the same day in February, but they've also been around long enough to understand how things work.
Then again, it didn't take long before both were snatched up by Super Bowl-winning franchises who value their experience and leadership.
"Listen, that's part of the league. Sometimes you move on," Long said when asked if the kinship with guys like Laurinaitis is what he misses most. "But focusing on the present really helps. And I have a number of great teammates here.
"Guys you play with, you share a special bond playing in this league with guys, and you do your best to stay in touch. But it's just a great opportunity to practice against a good team out here, and that's the bottom line."
Long said the Patriots have lived up to their reputation as a first-class organization, "and then some."
Laurinaitis, meanwhile, was brought to New Orleans to be the new quarterback of their defense after they were plagued by assignment and alignment errors last season. And teammates, coaches and "chess partner" Drew Brees have quickly raved about his fit in that role.
"For me, I think it's really trying to go back to rookie year," Laurinaitis said of adjusting to a new team for the first time in eight years. "These guys don’t know you much. They might have an opinion on you from film or whatever. But just trying to go in there, work hard, not say much at first and just try to gain their respect. You're a new guy in a new locker room. You just gotta really earn it."