EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings are betting that a former Pro Bowl tackle with knee issues can help solidify a battered offensive line that is the team's only major weakness.
Vikings officials announced Tuesday that free agent Jake Long has signed with the club. Long is a talented left tackle who has suffered a pair of anterior cruciate ligament tears in recent years. Last year he was only able to play four games for the Atlanta Falcons due to health woes, and this year Long backed out of a free agent deal with Baltimore after the team asked him to sign an injury waiver.
Despite that, Long insists he is healthier than he's been since 2010. He is now reunited with Vikings QB Sam Bradford, who he played with in St. Louis in 2013. His new offensive line coach is Tony Sparano, who was Long's head coach in Miami during the most productive of his eight years in the NFL.
The Vikings are desperate for help on the O-line, as their "next man up" system is running out of bodies. Left Tackle Matt Kalil is on season-ending injured reserve after hip surgery, and Tuesday OT Andre Smith was placed on injured reserve as well. Guard Brandon Fusco, who has a history of concussions, suffered another one against Houston on Sunday, and may be doubtful even with an extra week to recover. Guard Alex Boone has struggled with injuries to his hip and knee, but has managed to stay in the lineup.