Kyle Long was listed as a limited participant in practice on the Bears’ injury report Thursday, which is encouraging news given he didn’t participate on Wednesday (or much at all over the last few weeks).
Later Thursday, Long offered this assessment of his status: “I will say I’m a lot closer than I have been.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Long will play Sunday when the Bears begin the 2017 season against the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field, though. He would like to make his season debut when he feels healthy and like “himself,” which would be the guy who’s been to three Pro Bowls and is athletic and skilled enough to make the switch from right guard to left guard.
“You never want to enter a race with bad tires,” Long said. “If you’re in NASCAR, you want to have good tires. For me right now, (I’m) doing the best I can to clean mine off and getting ready to roll.”
While Long spoke with some optimism about his recovery on Thursday, the deliberate process for him to get back on the field has been frustrating for him. He was kicked out of the Bears’ final training camp practice in Bourbonnais — “I did some unacceptable things and then I got kicked out,” Long said — and hasn’t had much team work at his new position.
The Bears, though, aren’t concerned about Long’s ability to handle that switch without a full preseason to prepare for it.
“Based on our trainers, his work ethic, no hesitation (he can return to form),” general manager Ryan Pace said. “Kyle’s doing really well. We’ll see.”
The Bears eventually will need Long on the field, hopefully sooner rather than later. Long knows that, but also knows he has to take a bigger-picture view of his recovery.
“If we want to make a run at things, like I know everyone in this locker room does, we need to have all hands on deck when crunch time happens,” Long said. “As we know, it’s a marathon season, but those final stages are pretty dang important in determining who gets to go to the dance and who gets to move on. Being healthy at the end of the year, it’s a war of attrition, so we need to be as healthy as we can.”