Each year when it comes time for the voters to select the members of the next Pro Football Hall of Fame class there is at least one slam-dunk candidate and Ogden is that guy for the class of 2013. He thinks
“I’ve watched him a little bit,” said Ogden, who started 176 of the 177 games he played in. “I haven’t really watched a lot of the Fins since I retired, but I like his size, I like his aggressiveness and I think on the path he’s on right now he could one day potentially be talked about as a HOFer. He’s young still but the signs are nothing but positive for him.”
Long has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons after being taken with the first overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. He staked his claim as the anchor of Miami’s offensive line pretty much the moment he signed his rookie contract and so far has delivered on those lofty expectations placed upon his shoulders.
It only makes sense that a player like Ogden is someone Long has tried to pattern his game after because they are so close in physical stature. Long’s eyes lit up when he heard the words of praise coming from Ogden because as much as he appreciates the respect shown to him by fans and the media, to hear it fromsomeone who played the same position at the highest level really hits home.
“He was one of the best tackles I think to play in the game,” Long said. “He was so big but for how big he was he moved. He had great feet, he was smooth and he was as big as a house so no one ever got around him. He was in the league for so long, had such a great career and that’s definitely something I strive to do, is to have as long a career as him and be as respected as him. So he’s definitely someone I watched growing up and admired and he was a great player.”
Longevity in the game is something that does not come easily because injuries are part of the daily risk every NFL player faces. Ogden was fortunate enough to avoid serious injury during his career, which is why he chose his words cautiously when talking about Long’s overall potential.
Through his first four seasons Long put together a string of 62 consecutive starts, including one playoff game. A back injury kept him out of a game at the Buffalo Bills late last season on December 18th and then a torn biceps suffered six days later at New England landed him on Injured Reserve the week of the season finale at home against the New York Jets.
“The key question is can you stay healthy, can you stay consistent and can you not let your game slip or get complacent,” Ogden said. “That’s the kind of thing that’s hard, consistency over the years is the tough part. Everybody can have a good year or two and he’s had four good years so if he can go five, six or seven more then he’s on that path.”
Long’s work ethic and toughness are two of his Pro Bowl-caliber assets that are never questioned and he has approached his rehab from the biceps injury with the same vigor he approaches training camp. With that in mind, and with those words of wisdom from a player of Ogden’s caliber, Long’s path to one day seeing eye-to-eye with Ogden in Canton, Ohio can never be discounted.