Chris Long ready for first playoff experience

Matthew J. Lee | Boston Globe

Over his nine seasons in the National Football League, defensive end Chris Long has been through a lot.

But what he hasn’t done is experience a playoff game.

The 31-year-old veteran from Santa Monica, CA spent his first eight years in the league with the St. Louis Rams. On Saturday night, Long will be experiencing his first career playoff game, now as a New England Patriot.

Long signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in the offseason that has resulted in strong pick up for the team. The defensive end has played in all 16 games this season, seeing 65 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Long totaled 35 tackles and four sacks on the regular season.

His strong and dependable performance has been noticed throughout the organization.

“Extremely hard-working, loves the game of football, very dedicated to his craft,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said, “A guy that’s out there working really hard every day to get better and play hard for his teammates. And that’s all you can really ask for.”

And those who follow the Patriots closely know of Chris Long’s and Rob Ninkovich’s fun and lively friendship. (See: Chris Long also has a Rob Ninkovich mask and Rob Ninkovich showed up to Chris Long’s house with a clown mask)

“The first day we signed Chris, I reached out to him, and from that day forward, we had a good connection,” Ninkovich said, “So it’s awesome to see him have this opportunity to continue a season past every season he’s had before.”

Long isn’t the only one who is playing past the regular season for the first time. In fact, out of the 53 players on the Patriots’ roster, 19 have never been to the playoffs.

Among this list are Dion Lewis, Chris Hogan, Trey Flowers, Matt Lengel and many more, who will all get their first taste at the playoffs on Saturday night.

Follow Megan on Twitter: @carnahanmegan.