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Former Patriots, Rams, Eagles defender Chris Long announces his retirement from the NFL

The veteran is stepping away from the game.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the NFL’s premier defenders of the last decade, and a one-time member of the New England Patriots, announced his retirement today: Chris Long took to social media to break the news of him stepping away from pro football after eleven seasons and two Super Bowl victories.

Cheers. Been a hell of a journey. Eleven years and I can honestly say I put my soul into every minute of it. Highs and lows. I’ve seen them both and I appreciate the perspective. Gratitude and love to those who lifted me up.

Long originally entered the NFL as the second overall pick of the 2008 draft. He started his career with the then-St. Louis Rams, for whom he appeared in 114 games, and achieved some early individual success. The team itself, however, was mediocre at best during his eight seasons in St. Louis. Finally, after the 2015 season, the club opted to part ways with the veteran defender who had amassed 54.5 sacks up to this point.

Long’s career was far from over, though: the Patriots picked him up as a free agent and he quickly became a core member of their defensive edge rotation. As such, he not only helped the team surrendered the fewest points in the league in 2016 but he also earned his first ever trip to the playoffs — and it was a successful one: New England won all three of its postseason contests, with the final one being Super Bowl 51.

Against the Atlanta Falcons, Long was involved in a pivotal series in the game: with the Patriots down eight late in the fourth quarter and the Falcons driving into field goal range, the defender was held on a pass rushing attempt. The penalty pushed Atlanta further out of field goal range and helped set up New England’s game-tying drive — which in turn set up the club’s victory in the first Super Bowl to go to overtime.

After the 2016 season, Long moved on from the Patriots. His success continued, however, to the dismay of New England: now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Virginia product earned his second championship when his new club beat his old one in Super Bowl 52. All in all, Long spent the final two years of his pro career in Philadelphia before stepping away from the game at the age of 34.

Long, who registered 4.0 sacks in New England, was not just a tremendous player on the field but also an outstanding person off it. The best example of this came in 2017, when he decided to donate his entire year’s salary to charity. The NFL is certainly losing one of its best characters today.