Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs for a 5-yard gain as St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, right, defends during the first quarter an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)
Tom Gannam
September 10, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long will undergo surgery and is expected to miss most of the season after injuring his left ankle in the opening loss to the Vikings.

Coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday he'd not been optimistic about Long, who was hurt tackling Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the third quarter. Apparently, Long was stepped on from behind.

''I've been here a few years now and it's not good when he doesn't get up,'' Fisher said. ''He's never on the ground.''

It's the second major hit dealt to the Rams, who lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the year with a knee injury in the preseason. Bradford underwent surgery Monday.

Long, the second overall pick in 2008, has never missed a game and has started 85 of 97 in his career. He had 8 1/2 sacks last season and 11 1/2 in 2013 and gave no sign of a serious injury while meeting with media after the opening loss.

''He's a very tough guy,'' said William Hayes, who inherits the starting job this week at Tampa Bay. ''At the end of the day it was mind-boggling I didn't know he was hurt as bad as he was.''

Fisher said Ethan Westbrooks, who beat out Michael Sam for a backup defensive end spot, could be active this week.

Bradford underwent surgery Monday for a second torn ACL in his left knee and is expected to rejoin the team next week. He missed the last nine games of 2013.

Long will be placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list, which would sideline him at least six weeks. Fisher wouldn't go into specifics about the surgery, which will be done later Wednesday or early Thursday, but characterized it as ''unique.''

''To know it's requiring surgery is a bummer, because if it didn't require he'd be out there,'' middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. ''I remember a couple years ago he had a high ankle (sprain) and couldn't practice, could barely walk.

''But he would tape that thing up and go out and play.''

Fisher said Long also was examined by ''several'' specialists who agreed surgery was best not only for this season but for his career.

''He's not taking it very well,'' Fisher told reporters. ''Obviously, you guys know him - his personality is such that he let the team down because he can't be here. That's what he's most disappointed about.''

Fisher was optimistic Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long, will return before the end of the season.

Hayes has been valuable in the rotation, totaling 12 sacks the previous two years, and will be making his first start in three seasons with St. Louis. He talked with Long and wasn't happy to be moving up at a teammate's expense.

''He just told me to go out there and have fun, try to make the best of the situation,'' Hayes said. ''I wish him the best.''

Quarterback Shaun Hill did not practice with a left quadriceps injury that sidelined him for the second half of a 34-6 loss to Minnesota. Fisher said only that Hill was day to day.

Austin Davis, who made his NFL debut against the Vikings, would be the starter if Hill's not ready. The Rams acquired Case Keenum as insurance last week and Keenum got snaps for the first time in his fourth practice with St. Louis.

''He's starting to feel a little more comfortable in the system,'' Fisher said. ''He's working hard to get caught up.''

Fisher said Bradford decided over the weekend to have the surgery.

Guard Rodger Saffold was back at practice as he'd promised after leaving with a neck injury in the fourth quarter. Rookie defensive back Lamarcus Joyner was limited with a back injury.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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