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Long, Knighton fitting in fast

No matter how long you've played in the NFL, when you join a new team, you invariably feel like a rookie all over again in many respects.

For one thing, there's a lot to learn: new system, new playbook, new coaches and teammates, new building, new neighborhood, etc. That can get a bit overwhelming.

But then, you step onto the football field, and you feel like a rookie again in this respect: you feel young and invigorated again.

"It's really fun being out here," DE Chris Long told reporters after Thursday's Patriots OTA (organized team activity) practice, the third and final one of this first week of spring practices.

"Fun day out here," emphasized Long, who's in his first season in Foxborough after eight campaigns with St. Louis. "I love the way we go about business [in New England]. I love being out here competing. It's been a competitive couple of days, and I have a lot to worry about to get to the point where I can do my job the way I want to do it here."

Similar sentiments were expressed by DT Terrance Knighton. His seven previous NFL seasons were spent in Jacksonville (2009-12), Denver (13-14), and Washington (15).

"Only challenge right now is with the playbook, getting to learn that, and playing with a bunch of guys who know already how to play with each other," he explained. "Making progress every day. You don't want to take any steps backward because it's hard to make it up."

Knighton's goal at this stage is simple: learn the playbook.

"Every time you come to a new team, you have to put the extra work in to catch up with [returning] guys. Especially if you plan on being a starter in this league," Knighton added, "you have to catch up to the guys who are established. Right now, I'm putting in as much work as I can, conditioning-wise and in the playbook, to make sure I'm doing the right things.

"I'm trying not to see light at the end of the tunnel, just taking it one day at a time. There's no big picture right now. [I'll] go in, watch the film, see how I can get better, get on my iPad tonight, and watch as much film as I can."

There is something to be said for experience in this league, however, and the professionalism that both players have already shown is apparent to their new teammates.

"They're hard-working guys," safety/co-captain Devin McCourty remarked. "Obviously, they have a ton of experience. Being able to add two good football players to your front always helps out. So, I'm excited about it. I think they fit in very well, personality-wise."

Long, who was the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in 2008, had a strong start to his pro career with the Rams, but the past couple of seasons, his statistics declined. Not his enthusiasm for the game, however, as he noted Thursday.

"Any day I can play football is invigorating for me. Just to get out here with this awesome group of guys is invigorating every day for me. It's not about what happened in the past, it's about my first week and how I can adapt and help the team do things the way they do things. It's exciting.

"It's good to knock the rust off. For me, it's very important. I'm out here with a great attitude every day trying to get better. I came in with no expectations either way. I'm just here to do my job and what I'm asked to do. Whatever the coaches want me to do is where I line up. I just want to compete and help this team." 

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