Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long didn't take the same path his father,… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)
INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Long might never match what his father or brother has done in the NFL, but the Oregon offensive lineman is pretty proud he's gotten this far.
As the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long, and the younger brother of St. Louis defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick in 2008, Kyle took a bumpy, circuitous route to the scouting combine. That included a failed attempt at a baseball career and a battle with addiction, making an accomplishment such as an invitation to the combine that much more meaningful to him.
"I fought my way back, and I'm standing here today as somebody who's at the NFL combine," Long said Thursday, the first day of player evaluations at the six-day annual event. "I'm pretty proud of the things I've done, and I don't plan on stopping making progress any time soon."
The 6-foot-6 Long, a pitcher with a 96-mph fastball, was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rdround of the 2008 baseball draft but instead chose to attend Florida State. He dropped out in early 2009 because of academic problems and what he described as a "chemical dependency" that culminated with an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence.
He said his run-in with the law "was kind of the tipping point for me," and he left school the day after spending a night in jail. He moved to Southern California, where his father had been a star for the Los Angeles Raiders, and got a job in a surf shop.
"I didn't fit into any of the clothes in the shop, couldn't ride any of the skateboards, and none of the pretty girls wanted to talk to me," he said with a laugh. "Folding shirts was fun for a while, but I knew I needed to be in a football helmet somewhere."
That somewhere was Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, where he played on the defensive line, and ultimately the University of Oregon, where Coach Chip Kelly switched him to offense. Long played guard and tackle at various times for the Ducks last season, and rapidly established himself as a promising NFL prospect.
He's projected as a second-round tackle by NFLDraftScout but is confident he can play any position along the offensive line. He plans to practice snapping the ball in the coming weeks so teams searching for a center will consider him.
"He's adapted to the [offensive line] position very quickly," said Tennessee Titans Coach Mike Munchak, scheduled to interview Long on Friday. "You need a special demeanor to do things like that. I'm sure he's going to get a lot of attention these next couple of days, because a lot of teams like us are trying to figure out exactly where he's at in his development as an offensive lineman. Definitely someone that catches your eye."
Long, who said he intends to "outwork the world," said his top priority has been getting his life in order.
"We all face our own personal challenges," he said. "I struggled with some stuff off the field that I feel like not a lot of people have had to deal with. I picked myself up off the ground, really looked myself in the mirror, and made a decision that I was going to change for the better.
"You don't want to go back to that place, so you run as hard as you can in the opposite direction."
NFL executive Adolpho Birch said the league and players' union need to come up with an agreement soon to begin testing for human growth hormone, something that was supposed to be resolved when a new collective bargaining agreement was reached in summer 2011.
Birch, senior vice president of law and labor policy, told reporters that the league has tried to move the ball forward while the NFL Players Assn. continues to raise issues that "stall out" the process.
"There is an effort to go back and revisit a lot of things that were agreed to, negotiated on extensively and agreed to by the parties," he said. "And you can name any number of things over the past several months that represent efforts to take another look at things that are already decided. That's everything from the implementation of HGH testing, to the commissioner's authority on conduct detrimental cases, to any number of things.
"And I do think, at the end of the day, that it is a disservice to all for us not to be able to focus on the issue at hand, particularly in the context of HGH testing, and to understand what the implications of continuing to delay this are for our fans, our players, and for kids. It is a tremendous disservice."
In a conference call Tuesday, union officials said they favor HGH testing, providing there is an adequate appeals process in place.
NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said the trust between the league and players has "deteriorated" and "players don't feel comfortable moving forward and I don't feel comfortable moving forward without the proper protections in place."
He added: "HGH testing that doesn't give our players the opportunity to appeal, that's just a non-starter."
Some quarterbacks chew out offensive linemen for missing blocks.