Travis Long played outside linebacker in his final season at Washington State after playing his first three seasons as a defensive end. (USA Today Images)
From California to Philadelphia and strength workouts to football drills, the last few days have been a change of pace for recently signed outside linebacker Travis Long.
Long, who underwent rehabbing and strength and conditioning workouts for eight and a half months, was finally back out on the field when he suited up for his first practice with the Eagles on Wednesday. The former Washington State standout was signed Monday night by the team after inside linebacker Jason Phillips suffered a torn ACL the same day.
When speaking with reporters after practice, Long harped on the speed of everything that’s happened the past few days from the tempo of practice to his addition to the roster. He flew into Philadelphia on Sunday night, worked out for the team Monday morning, passed a physical hours after and was signed later that evening. And after studying the playbook Tuesday night with Eagles coaches, Long said he’s taking things one step at a time.
“I'm still kind of learning on the fly,” Long said. “I had to learn the whole playbook yesterday, so it's going to be an adjustment period.”
For a guy picking things up as he goes along, Long has a leg up on other potential linebackers that could have been brought in. The four-time all-conference honoree, after playing defensive end his first three years of college ball, converted to outside linebacker when Mike Leach became the new coach at Washington State.
Leach brought with him a 3-4 defense contrary to the 4-3 that Long had played in his previous three seasons. The Washington state native thrived in the “Buck” end-linebacker hybrid role, tallying a career-high 9½ sacks in 11 games last season.
“I'm a good pass rusher off the edge. I'm pretty good in coverage, too, so I can play that outside linebacker position. It's kind of my natural position,” the 22-year-old said.
But what held him out of the Cougars’ final 2012 contest and kept him from starting 48 consecutive games was a knee injury the week prior against Arizona State. Long suffered the same injury that landed him in Philadelphia: a torn ACL.
“It's been a long, slow process, but I kind of knew what it was going to be like,” Long said. “I didn't want to push it too fast or anything, but I'm healthy now and it feels good. It just took a while.”
Long said his knee is 100 percent now and that it feels good when he’s out on the field moving around.
Long said his experience in college was beneficial not only because of his experience in the 3-4 but also because it prepared him for the speed of Chip Kelly’s offense. In the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10), Long and the Cougars squared off with Kelly and Oregon four times and surrendered an average of 47.3 points per meeting.
The versatile defensive player said his team had “some success at times” in stopping Kelly’s offensive barrage, and he remembers the difficulty of preparing for the Ducks in practice.
That speed Long dealt with against Oregon is similar in regards to his experience catching up in Kelly’s practices.
Regardless, the first-year player recognizes that more time in camp with the Eagles will not only help him adjust but also provide him a chance at latching on with an NFL team.
“It's fast, and I just have to get used to it,” Long said. “But, it's a good experience. I'm happy to be here.”