Jake Long pleased with progress of knee

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- This week, we covered the St. Louis Rams' confidence in the pending return of left tackle Jake Long. The team has believed Long capable of being ready for the regular-season opener for most of the offseason.

That confidence has been largely based on what the team has seen from Long in the offseason. Rams coach Jeff Fisher even went so far as to say Long could return to practice in the middle of training camp. And the team has backed that belief in Long by keeping potential temporary replacements Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold at their projected guard spots.

On Tuesday afternoon, Long offered his take on where his recovery from a torn MCL and ACL is in his first comments to reporters since his January surgery.

"I'm pretty happy," Long said. "Every single week we try to introduce something more and more, and I just get more strength, I get smoother at my pass sets and coming off the ball. I'm really excited and happy with how I'm progressing."

On Tuesday, Long worked on the side with athletic trainer James Lomax, going through a variety of lateral movement drills and appeared to have more bounce in his step than one would expect from a player who had his surgery about five months ago. Long is also participating in team walk-through drills, ensuring he's a part of installation sessions and working on communication with the rookie Robinson, who is expected to line up next to him on the left side.

Fisher indicated Tuesday that Long has been doing a lot more work behind the scenes, but Long also put some of his progress on display in front of the assembled media during Tuesday's organized team activity. As for Fisher's mid-training camp estimate and the return for the season opener, Long sees both as realistic.

"That's the goal," Long said. "As long as I keep progressing and don't have any setbacks.

"That's what we've talked about ever since we had the surgery. We sat down and looked at the schedule and talked through the rehab session and said if it's going well and we're doing good then that could be our goal. I think we're on pace for that, so that's what we're shooting for."

For Long, who has been bit by the injury bug on a regular basis in recent seasons, an extensive rehabilitation plan is nothing new. He suffered a torn biceps in 2011 and torn triceps in 2012, with those ailments costing him six games.

But Long openly acknowledges that this one is the most difficult.

"It's definitely one of the toughest," Long said. "An ACL is not a joke, and one of the longest to come back from. I've just put my head down and put my nose to the grindstone and really wanted to work hard and get back."

It remains to be seen when Long will be back at full strength and cleared to resume practice, but so far the Rams' initial projection looks to be more realistic than it once appeared.