Long looks to speed on road to recovery

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With no other means of transportation these days, St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long is making the most of his aqua colored "knee scooter."

In searching for the exact name of the device, a website called goodbyecrutches.com touts that the scooter won't "let an injury slow you down." As Long has begun traveling the road to recovery from a left ankle injury that currently has him in a large cast in which he can't bear any weight, there has been no slowing down at all.

In fact, head athletic trainer Reggie Scott has considered posting speed limit signs around Rams Park or installing a governor on the scooter to keep Long from rolling around too fast.

"Without this scooter, I'm lost," Long said. "I'm pretty good. They say I drive too fast on it actually. Reggie says I'm testing the limits on this thing. I might put a motor on it."

Now if only Long can get back on the football field with the same expedience. Long suffered the injury early in the Rams' home opener when a teammate rolled up on to the back of his ankle as he tried to get off a block.

As soon as Long went down, he knew something was wrong. He'd played through ankle sprains in the past, even the more painful high ankle sprains, and something immediately felt amiss. He went to the sideline and asked to have the ankle taped up so he could return to the field. Those attempts were unsuccessful and Long knew his streak of 97 consecutive games to open his career was in jeopardy.

It wasn't until further examination that Long found out his injury was unique.

"There’s two tendons that kind of run down your leg and keep everything stable and the ligaments and muscles that hold it down were torn so the tendons fly out and they’re in the wrong place," Long said. "So there’s only one way to put it back."

In other words, it wasn't a matter of pain tolerance so much as stability. Long paid a visit to foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte to have it repaired. As it stands, Long is still in the cast and will have to continue to use the scooter for another week to 10 days. After that, he'll be able to switch to a walking boot and that's when the more strenuous rehabilitation can begin. He'll then spend a couple of weeks in the walking boot but once it comes off, he can begin heading toward a return.

It's a return that wouldn't have been possible when Long entered the league in 2008. Since, the league has added a spot for injured reserve with a designation to return. That's where Long finds himself, in position where the earliest he could come back is the Nov. 9 game against Arizona.

Long will miss at least five more games before he can begin a new streak of games played. That he has to start over is one of the most painful parts of the injury for Long, who took great pride in his durability.

"That meant a lot to me," Long said. "I always wanted to play my whole career without missing any time and it sounded ridiculous but guys like Justin Smith that have had those really remarkable streaks, that’s pretty admirable so it was like a goal to me. But football is tough, sometimes you can’t control things, you can’t play through certain things and that’s just the reality of it."

Smith had a streak of 185 consecutive games before a 2012 elbow injury. Of course, the lost streak pales in comparison to not being on the field with his teammates.

"Being a part of the team means so much to me and I've never experienced being a part of the team without being out there physically," Long said. "When it was evident to me that I was going to miss some time, it really hurt. You want to tear up. It just means a lot to you."

The notoriously mischievous Long struggled to settle in immediately after the surgery but has found a groove lately.

Long plans to continue to be around the team as much as possible and attend meetings with the defense. When he's not doing that, he'll be dedicating plenty of time to preparing for the team's NBA fantasy draft, a league that boasts high stakes, none higher than the ultimate in locker room bragging rights and a trophy taller than some of the players.

"First couple of days, I was legitimately like a crazy person but I was trying to focus my energy on just being in the game mentally, trying to help out when I can with some of the younger guys," Long said. "It just makes you appreciate the opportunity to come to work every day and be around these guys. It really is a great family atmosphere and I’ve leaned on it quite a bit."