It's been next man up in Minnesota all season long. Now, former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long is up.
Long, 31, has appeared in just 11 games over the past two seasons with seven total starts. He played just a handful of snaps for the Atlanta Falcons a year ago.
Despite suffering a pair of ACL tears, Long has been in the mix all offseason long. He signed a deal with the Baltimore Ravens in July, but backed out a few days later after the team requested he sign an injury waiver. He has been waiting for the right opportunity ever since.
Long, like most players who have sustained a career-altering injury, maintains that this is the healthiest he's been in a long time. Now, we will have to see if Long is healthy enough to keep Jeremiah Sirles off the field. Sirles was Smith's initial replacement.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is stashing one veteran mercenary after the next to combat the seemingly unfair string of injuries he's seen since late August. The only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, Minnesota has its eyes on a Super Bowl and nothing else, which explains the all-or-nothing replacement game they've been playing.
Should Long be correct and truly be as healthy as he's been since 2010, this is just another genius gamble taken by a front office that has absolutely nothing to lose at this point. Long has the bye week to prepare before starting his career in purple against the Eagles' wide-nine defense.