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Chris Long Rams like the versatility of their No. 1 pick BY STEVE KORTE News-Democrat ST. LOUIS -- With the No. 91 that he wore at the University of Virginia already taken by Leonard Little, Chris Long is mulling over what number he'll wear with the St. Louis Rams. He won't be donning the No. 75 worn by his father, Howie Long, during his Hall of Fame career with the Oakland Raiders. "I think that I am cool with the pressure, but there is no need to shovel it on myself," Long said. Long is looking to shape his own NFL career as the first-round pick of the Rams in the 2008 NFL Draft. "The God's honest truth is that I wouldn't want to be anywhere but St. Louis," Long said. "This is where I wanted to go. I intend on proving that I am worth the pick." Howie Long and his wife, Diane, didn't travel with their oldest son to St. Louis on Sunday. "He was relieved," Long said of his father's reaction to him being selected by the Rams. "I just told him that I loved him and he told me the same, and I just thanked him for sticking with me through this because he's been more nervous than me really." The Rams are counting on Long to be their starting right defensive end. He should provide a spark to their pass rush after registering 14 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss last season for the University of Virginia. "We really like his ability to rush the passer," said Billy Devaney, the Rams' executive vice president for player personnel. "He played a lot of inside, almost like a defensive tackle, at Virginia, and he played really good there. "I think the way we plan to utilize him out in space more, he'll be able to show just what kind of athlete he is, how good he is coming off the ball and what a good pass-rusher that he is." Long had only seven sacks over his previous three seasons with the Cavaliers before his breakout season this year. "He really worked on his ability to get there," Linehan said. "What he did this year was he figured out how to cut off about half a second to that quarterback." Long has been compared to former Rams defensive end Grant Wistrom, the sixth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. "I don't think it is really fair to compare players, but I think there are qualities that are very similar," Linehan said. "I was not fortunate enough to coach Grant. I coached against him unfortunately. They do share a lot of excellent traits." The character trait that Long shares with Wistrom above all others is his passion for the game. "A lot of guys say that they love football and the games, but this guy is one of those guys who love it 24-7," Linehan said. Long hates the label of "high motor" that gets placed on him. "I feel like everybody who has gotten to this point has to have a high motor and has to work hard," Long said. "I just play the game the way it is supposed to be played and I think sometimes when people call you 'high motor,' they don't look at you for athletic ability. I think I have some, but I also work very hard." Long remains down to earth despite his pedigree. "You grow up in that environment with a father who is nationally and probably world-wide known on and off the field, and this kid kind of does his own thing," Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He doesn't really live in his dad's shadow. He understands his dad had his time, and he's got his own time." Haslett said the Rams plan to exploit Long's versatility by moving him around on the defensive line and even occasionally dropping him back in pass coverage. "I think he is a better fit for teams like us and Baltimore and Pittsburgh, teams that do a lot of things instead of just a straight 4-3 where you are going to rush him all day," Haslett said. "I think he'll be a more productive player because of all the things he can do." Long's younger brother, Kyle, is a 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher and first baseman who has signed with Florida State. He's also a potential professional prospect. "I called him yesterday on my way back from the draft and I said, 'Play for the Cardinals, man,"' Long said. "We're in an awesome sports city, and I know baseball is big here. Who knows? Wouldn't that be cool?" Long is friends with Rams wide receiver Marques Hagans, who also attended Virginia. He also received telephone calls from quarterback Marc Bulger and defensive tackle La'Roi Glover after being drafted by the Rams. "Marc Bulger called me yesterday and I had about a five-minute conversation with him," Long said. "It was really encouraging to just hear how cool he was. He's like 'Hey you can crash at my place if you need a place to stay in the mean time. Any questions you have, I can answer them.' "I also talked to La'Roi Glover as well, Someone that I grew up watching back when I was a kid and now I'm going to hopefully be able to learn a lot from him." Long said it was important for him to avoid a holdout and report for the start of training camp. "When I grew up watching people miss out on camp and stuff like that, I just didn't get it," Long said. " I want to be a good teammate and I want to set my best foot forward. I don't want to show up when people have already started working. I'm going to do my best to get into camp, everything in my power."


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