The stat sheet will not show much to David Long’s credit. However, his return to the lineup on Sunday was an important one.
The Tennessee Titans second-year linebacker spent 12 days on the COVID-19 reserve list. After the Titans removed him on Saturday, Long participated in a brief walk-through and was thrust into action in the Titans’ 45-26 victory over the Colts.
“We had met with him throughout the week, but that's a tall task having been away,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “Physically, what he was going to look like after passing through the cardiovascular ramp up? I think it was a good start.”
Long teamed with veteran linebacker Will Compton to lead the defense in place of Jayon Brown, who sustained season-ending elbow injuries in the Titans’ Week 11 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Long played 36 snaps, while Compton played 30. Long finished the game against the Colts with just three tackles but according to Pro Football Focus, he was the Titans’ highest graded player on defense with a rating of 90.3.
He had played just 25 snaps in all over his first eight appearances.
This season has not gone as well as last season did for the 24-year-old Long. In nine games this season, the 5-foot-11, 221-pounder has recorded 14 total tackles and one tackle for a loss, which occurred in a Week 1 victory over the Denver Broncos.
The sixth-round selection by the Titans in 2019 made appearances in 14 regular season games and all three of Tennessee’s postseason games as a rookie. Long earned most of his playing time in the later stages of last season when Brown battled injuries.
His best performance last season came in the Titans’ Week 10 victory over the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. He forced a fumble which was returned for a touchdown by Rashaan Evans and registered a single-game high eight tackles.
The Titans certainly hope Long can return to that form for the season’s stretch run. Without Brown, the Titans will need him to step up again. And again. And again.
“I think (Long) will be prepared, and again will be a large part of what we do going forward and it was good to see him back out there,” Vrabel said. “He should have a great week of practice this week and help us against the Browns.”