Spencer Long is no stranger to moving around the offensive line. During his three seasons in the NFL, he’s taken reps at right guard and left guard.
Long played right guard for the first year and a half of his professional career after playing the position four years at Nebraska. He switched to left guard to replace Shawn Lauvao for the final 13 games last season after Lauvao suffered an ankle injury in Week 3.
“For me, it was like Spencer Long was a rookie again,” offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. “It was his first year starting as a full-timer.”
But despite taking over at left guard for the majority of last season and taking first-team reps throughout the offseason, the starting job isn’t his by default. Lauvao has not practiced in the offseason, but expects to be cleared by the time training camp begins.
“Wherever the lineup is, I’m prepared to do my job,” Long said. “Nothing is set in stone, in this league especially. Shawn’s going to be coming back from an injury, so it’s always super competitive. It’s not like you can say ‘hey, I started out at left.’ It doesn’t matter. You can’t think that way or else you’ll get swallowed in.”
Throughout offseason practices, Long has taken all of the second-team reps at center to further diversify his offensive-line résumé. Coaches want to evaluate Long both as a possible long-term solution at center, and to ensure that they have better depth behind starter Kory Lichtensteiger, who missed much of last season with injury.
The work at center has helped Long gain a better grasp on the offense, he says.
“[At center] you have to make all the calls and know what everybody’s doing,” Long said. “It’s not like I didn’t have a grasp of the offense at left guard, but when you have to go out there and visualize it and actually verbalize it fast, it really helps you grow and become more confident with your calls and the big picture of the offense.
“Just moving all around is good for you long term. You might take a step back initially if you’re changing positions, but it’s going to help you grow as a player.”
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