Reinvigorated Long Embracing Opportunity With Bears

"I'm lucky to be here," Kyle Long says. "I know we all feel the same way."

Chris Emma
August 12, 2019 - 9:59 am

(670 The Score) Kyle Long can be excused for feeling this way. While many veteran players around the league dread the preseason grind, the Bears' guard has found enjoyment during his seventh NFL training camp because this one has been so different.

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The 30-year-old Long had his first offseason since 2015 with a clean bill of health, and he spent it traveling, golfing and with his mind at ease. He arrived with the Bears in Bourbonnais ready to practice without limitations and begin chasing the Super Bowl aspirations his team holds.

Long is part of an offensive line returning the same five starters and a position coach they respect. He's on a Bears roster with a close-knit chemistry. And after experiencing the hard times in Chicago, Long is embracing this opportunity he has.

"Coming down here with this group of guys, it was as fun of a time as I've had and as productive of a time as I've been a part of in Bourbonnais," Long said after a spirited practice Sunday morning. "I'm looking forward to seeing this team continue to progress.

"The big thing is having a group of guys that understand the culture and really live by this code and ethos. There are a lot of things we're doing here that we haven't done in years past. I'm excited to be a part of this."

Related: Bears' Matt Nagy: 'We don't have turds on this team'

Don't be mistaken: Long hasn't lost his sharp edge by any means. He's still the same fierce competitor at the line of scrimmage. That included Sunday morning, when he and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks got into a shoving match in practice. Both men have referred to how they improve practicing against each other.

"It started in the offseason," coach Matt Nagy said of Long. "He had a mentality of proving us right, and he’s done that and some. 

"That’s just a credit to him to working hard, really just doing his job and trying to be the best teammate he could be."

Long understood what the Bears have in place for 2019 and beyond. It's part of why he agreed in February to restructure his contract, which helped allow Chicago to add pieces like safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, cornerback Buster Skrine, running back Mike Davis and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Long has two years remaining on his deal and will make a reduced base salary of $2.5 million in 2019. The agreement eliminated doubt about whether he would remain with the team.

Long is approaching his work with a determined mindset and a hunger that his teammates share. They realize what's at stake.

"I just know this city is dying for a great football team, and I think we have one primed and ready to give it to them," Long said.

Long has been a beating heart for the Bears since his arrival as a first-round pick in 2013. He was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three seasons, but injuries hampered his next three years. Long suffered a torn labrum in the 2016 preseason, and a gruesome right ankle injury forced him to put off the shoulder problem. The torn labrum led to neck issues as well.

Long underwent three surgeries in the 2018 offseason and then suffered a right foot injury last October. Over the course of the past three seasons, he played in 26 games and missed 22. Long returned for the 2018 regular-season finale and played in the playoff game, then entered the offseason feeling healthy and like himself.

Now, the Bears see a reinvigorated Long leading the way.

"Regardless of what people have in terms of expectations for the Bears, we know what we have in terms of expectations for ourselves on a daily basis," Long said. "We try to go out and get those goals.

"This team wants more and more. Every chance that we get, every time we go out and we do something well on the practice field, in a game, we see a little bit further down the tunnel and we say, 'Oh, we can go a little bit further. We can do this thing a little bit better.' 

"I'm lucky to be here. I know we all feel the same way."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.