Chris and Kyle Long are not the first set of brothers to play in the NFL and they won’t be the last. But what they are is the rare combination of brothers who play on the opposite side of the ball.
Peyton and Eli Manning are both quarterbacks, as are David and Derek Carr, Matt and Tim Hasselbeck, and Josh and Luke McCown. Sterling and Shannon Sharpe both caught passes. The Gronkowski brothers all play offense. The Trufant brothers are all defensive backs, as are the McCourty twins. Mike and Maurice Pouncey are both offensive linemen.
Clay and Casey Matthews are both linebackers. Their father, Clay Jr., played against his brother, Bruce, though the Hall of Fame offensive lineman usually got the better of that matchup.
Ronde and Tike Barber played on opposite sides of the ball, but the cornerback and running back twins did not often come head to head.
That is a contrast to the Long brothers, who have gone face to face in the trenches. Chris, who is almost four years older than Kyle, is a defensive end for the New England Patriots after spending eight years with the St. Louis Rams. Kyle has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons as a guard for the Chicago Bears.
The two not only got to play each other in the second preseason game last Thursday, they also practiced against each other all week.
“We never really played against each other, or even on the same team in organized sports,” Chris Long told reporters. “It’s definitely new when we practice against each other or play against each other, but it’s just fun to see your brother at the end of the day. I hadn’t seen him since the beginning of July, and I might not see him for a long time.”
As for hitting his younger brother, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Chris said trying to move his 6-6, 320-pound younger brother is like trying to dislodge “a big tree stump.”
“Luckily I’m out there on the edge and we didn’t have to deal with each other much,” Chris said.
The Long brothers are the sons of Hall of Famer Howie Long, who was a dominant defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders from 1981-93. Practicing against each other in Foxborough, Mass., last week was special for another reason – Howie grew up in nearby Charlestown.
“I understand where our family comes from and the history [here] is something that’s very important,” Kyle said. “I was thinking about where I could go to see some Revolutionary War stuff. I wanted to see some historical sites, but the schedule is just not going to allow it. We’re tight. It’s training camp, we understand that. It’s a business trip.”
There is another Long brother, though Howie Jr. chose to play lacrosse at the University of Virginia, Chris’ alma mater. Howie Jr. returned to football last year, however, as a scouting assistant and personnel assistant for the Raiders.
“There was no, ‘Because my dad did it,’” Chris said of football. “Actually, I wanted to play baseball. Honestly, I just think with a kid developing, playing a lot of sports, it’s just kind of whatever you’re good at. It feels good to do things that you’re actually good at it. It’s just real simple. Whatever you’re best at, you kind of gravitate to, and eventually that’s what happened with me and Kyle. I mean, you look at him. He has no choice.
“Being half a foot shorter and 60 pounds lighter, it keeps things in perspective. I always felt like I knew a bigger person. Hanging around him and my dad, I’m the smallest one out of the three of us. Then there’s my youngest brother, Howie who is more normal-sized like I am. It’s never intimidating seeing big people. It’s helped.”
While Kyle, the 20th overall pick from Oregon in the 2013 NFL Draft, didn’t enter the NFL with as much fanfare as Chris, the No. 2 selection in the 2008 draft, he’s certainly made the most of it.
“He’s a talented player, and when you combine that with knowledge of the game, which you do every year, everybody is trying to gain that edge every year,” said Chris, who has 51 1/2 career sacks – including double-digit sack seasons in 2011 and 2012. “You can only get better and better. What he’s been able to do on the field has been tremendous in three years.
“He’s a really good kid and I just enjoy kind of watching him grow into being a man in this league. I know the work that it takes and I just think, more than anything, just seeing the way he’s plugged away, he grows up every year. It’s just fun to see him, each and every year, get better.”
Last weekend was just the second time the Long brothers have gotten an opportunity to square off. When the Rams played the Bears last season, Chris had to sit out because of a knee injury that cost him 11 games. They did play against each other in a 2013 Rams victory in St. Louis. Kyle was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after starting a post-whistle scuffle.
When a fight broke out between Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery and Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler last week, Kyle said he had his head on a swivel.
“I was making sure Chris wasn’t coming to drop-kick me,” Kyle quipped. “I turned around, and of course he was making a beeline for me.”
While Kyle said in 2015 going against his brother isn’t much fun, he admitted last week that lining up opposite Chris “was really cool.”
“My rookie year, I played him when he was in St. Louis, and we didn’t directly go against one another. I mean, I saw him every once in a while, but (this) was a real good opportunity to line up and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s my brother right across from me.’ It was just a lot of fun. I’m proud of him and just happy to be here. We’re really lucky to be in this situation.
“He’s a great older brother, and he’s a heck of a football player. The Pats are lucky to have him. … He has worked his tail off to get back to where he is, and I’m looking forward to him having a lot of success.”