Tight end Hunter Long admitted getting traded to the Rams caught him by surprise.
A month earlier, he was hoping he had done enough to earn an expanded role with the Miami Dolphins, and was prepared to attack the offseason accordingly with the team that drafted him 81st overall in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
As the shock begins to subside, he's ready to do as much as he can to maximize his time in Los Angeles and looking forward to the opportunity.
"Definitely, it was a surprise for me, but I'm really excited for it," Long told theRams.com. "Really excited to join the Rams, really excited to get out there and start working with the coaching staff. Coach (Nick) Caley's a great tight end coach they just brought in, so I'm really excited to start working with him. But yeah, just excited for the opportunity. It's a great opportunity for me and excited to take advantage of it."
While the Rams are a new team for Long, they have a familiar face on staff in Caley, who interviewed Long several times during the pre-draft process in 2021.
"We've talked a bunch. He's coached a couple of other guys that I know, and they've all had great things to say about him," Long said. "I've heard nothing but great things about him. And obviously, we've talked for probably a couple hours on Zoom calls through the draft process, so I have some familiarity with him."
Long has one catch for eight yards in 16 games through his first two NFL seasons – and that catch came during his 2021 rookie season – but as is always the case with stats, context is important.
Upon his arrival in Miami, Long joined a tight end room that already included multiple experienced players in Mike Gesicki (a 2018 second-round pick by the Dolphins), Durham Smythe (2018 fourth-round pick by the Dolphins), Adam Shaheen (acquired by the Dolphins in a trade with the Bears during the summer of 2020, prior to his fourth NFL season) and Cethan Carter (signed a 3-year contract with the Dolphins in March 2021, entering what would be his fifth NFL season).
In 2022, the Dolphins changed coaching staffs, and Long had more of a blocking role. It wasn't necessarily a reflection of his full skillset, just what he was asked to do and something he did in order to help the team be successful.
"I came into kind of a tricky situation. I came into a tight end room that already had five tight ends, and three established tight ends," Long said. "As a rookie, my role was with a rookie role and kind of plugged in where I could and do I what could. This last year, I definitely carved out a bigger role for myself. Unfortunately, dealt with some injuries early on, and kind of picked up steam later in the season when I was able to get over those injuries. I was definitely in more of a blocking role this year, but that was not because I can't run routes and catch the ball, you know? I'm as team-guy as they come, and whatever the team needs to do to win games and help the team be successful, I'm gonna do and do to the best of my ability. So that's all I was asked to do, and I tried to excel at that, but that's obviously not my whole game."
As we welcome tight end Hunter Long to the Los Angeles Rams, look through the best photos from his time in Miami.
Long said he doesn't know yet what his role will be, which is understandable – organized team activities don't start until mid-April, and the Rams coaching staff still has plenty of time to continue working through what the offense will look like in 2023 – but is going to earn it. He also said the Rams coaching staff understands his skillset isn't limited to just blocking.
"I mean, they understand that too, and that was obviously good to hear," Long said. "I'm not too sure what my role is going to be yet – that's obviously up for them to decide and I don't really have a say in that. But I'm going to come in and work my ass off and try to earn earn the role. Obviously there's two tight end positions, the 'Y' and the 'F,' and I see myself as being an 'F' in this league, and being able to do both job descriptions well for the tight ends. I plan on doing that and working towards that with the Rams."
Ultimately, Long wants to use this fresh start to show people what he can do.
"I'm just as confident in myself as I've always been," Long said. "I think this is a great opportunity for me to showcase my skillset and show what I can do in this league, and I'm excited to have that opportunity."