<
>

Chris Long salutes Pats but wants to move on 'to do what I do best'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran defensive end Chris Long signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots last offseason in hopes of winning a Super Bowl, and with that goal accomplished, he explained Wednesday why he will be moving on in 2017.

On his Instagram account, Long thanked Patriots fans and expressed his admiration and appreciation for teammates and coach Bill Belichick, before writing, "This has zero to do with money ... it's the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I'm thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I'm itching to do what I do best."

Thank you Pats Nation. As a player you've given so much support to, I owe you an explanation as to why I'll be moving on in FA... even if it isn't a big deal. This year and this opportunity gave me a ton. I made lifelong friends in a great locker room and became a champion. I'm so thankful that Coach B (the GOAT) took a chance on me and allowed me the opportunity to play a small part in this wonderful year. This has zero to do with money, etc. It's the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I'm thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I'm itching to do what I do best. It was important to say thank you personally. You may not remember me much, but I'll always remember y'all!! #driveforfive #missionaccomplished

A post shared by Chris Long 🆑⚡️ (@laflamablanca95) on

Long, who played the first eight years of his career with the Rams in St. Louis and was never part of a team with a winning record, might be seeking a more expanded role or a defensive system that he feels is more tailored to his skill set.

In Super Bowl LI, he played just 15 snaps as a designated pass-rusher and made a big impact, drawing a critical holding penalty that helped push the Atlanta Falcons out of field goal range when they had been in position to kick a field goal late and possibly increase their lead to 11 points.

Long, who turns 32 on March 28, brought a level of professionalism to New England that earned him widespread respect among teammates in the locker room.

In an ESPN Radio interview after the Super Bowl, Long said, "I'm excited for the next step. I didn't know coming into this year that I could still play football at a high level. I feel like I can play just as well as I did before I started getting hurt [in 2014-2015]."

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Long had signed a one-year, $2.35 million contract with the Patriots in March 2016. He played in all 16 regular-season games, as well as all three playoff games, opening the year as a starter and finishing as a situational pass-rusher.

Playing 65.1 percent of the defensive snaps, Long totaled 35 tackles and four sacks in the regular season.