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Free agent OT Jake Long says he’s ‘finally healthy’ again

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A once-great player is certain that he’s ready to be great again. The 49ers need help at the position, but Long’s injury history is concerning at best.

Free agent offensive lineman Jake Long is ready to find a new team and says he’s healthy for the first time in a very, very long time. Specifically, Long said that he’s more healthy than he’s been in “about five, six years,” according to ESPN.

Long, 31, was the first overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four years in the league and and was named an All-Pro twice. But a lengthy injury history derailed his career after that point.

After joining the then-St. Louis Rams, Long tore his right ACL in 2013 and then again in 2014. Last year, he played for the Atlanta Falcons though he did not make a start and only saw the field in four games.

“When I wake up and my knee doesn’t hurt, you know what I mean,” Long said. “I feel the strength back. You can see it. You can feel it. My body feels good the way I’m moving, working out and how good I feel moving on it.”

Knee injuries, especially ACL tears, are some of the worst injuries in sports and for an offensive tackle that always relied on a steady mix of athleticism and strength, Long was hurt big time. He hasn’t looked like he can really get the push using leverage like he did in the past.

Then again, as a result of his injuries, Long technically has less of the usual wear and tear on his body accumulated in the NFL. Offensive tackles prove each and every year that they can succeed well into their 30’s, and if Long’s knee is truly up to 100 percent, then there’s reason to suspect he may be able to play at a high level again.

But it’s promise that hasn’t been delivered on with each of his past two teams and it’s not necessarily any more likely that it would be with the San Francisco 49ers.

We’re discussing this, of course, because the 49ers need all the help they can get at the offensive tackle position. The team reportedly showed interest in Eugene Monroe, though whether or not that’s still an option with Monroe being married to the idea of playing on the left side is unknown. But with Erik Pears and Trenton Brown set to battle for the starting job on the right side, the spot could definitely use an upgrade.

Anthony Davis continues to insist that he plans to play this year and continues to do show us nothing that would indicate that’s actually going to happen. Joe Staley is a very good left tackle so that position is not an issue. With new starters potentially set at left and right guard, the offensive line will surely look very different next season.

I’m not sure there’s a future where Long is a part of it but a once-great player is trying to be great again, and he’s probably worth a look at the very least. Due diligence and all of that.