Kyle Long returned to practice on Friday for the first time since injuring his foot Oct. 28 against the New York Jets, signaling an important step toward the offensive lineman returning either for the Bears’ regular season finale against the Minnesota Vikings or during the playoffs in January.
The Bears now have 21 days from Friday to activate Long off injured reserve and onto their 53-man roster, potentially adding a significant player back into their offense for what the team hopes is a deep playoff run.
“I’ve never had a chance to play in the playoffs,” Long, a six-year veteran, said. “I’m just really happy for our team. We have put ourselves in a position to be in the playoffs. But right now we are going to San Francisco tomorrow and we’ve got business to take care of the next two weeks. There’s obviously no timeline, so I’m just trying to progress every day and make strides.”
For Long, the most important thing he needs to show over the next week or so is that he’s back in football shape after being sidelined for nearly two months (“I’ve got to make so I’m less out of breath the next day than I was before,” he said). Ideally, Long would be activated off injured reserve next week and be able to play in Minnesota to get game action before the playoffs start.
The Bears could still re-insert Long into their lineup come the playoffs even if he doesn’t play in the regular season, though move would be something the team’s coaching staff and trainers would need to think through, coach Matt Nagy said.
“If we get to a point to where we feel like we can have him ready or play in the last regular season game, if that would make sense, great,” Nagy said. “If we feel like just talking through with him we get into the playoffs and that's something he can do, we can test that out, too, we just have to see. More so for him, he's gotta be honest with us, and then we've just gotta see conditioning because it is different. It's not like going out and running a mile or two miles, it's just a different type of conditioning.”
The Bears’ offensive line has played better as of late, especially in pass protection, as James Daniels and Bryan Witzmann have settled in at left and right guard, respectively. But adding Long — who, when healthy, is one of the team’s best offensive linemen — back into the mix at right guard could act as a boost to the Bears’ burgeoning Super Bowl hopes.
“I think he's a natural-born leader,” coach Matt Nagy said. “And then on top of that, he was playing really well. You forget and you see him out here at practice, you forget how huge he is. He's massive. He's strong, powerful, quick for his size and it's good to get him back. It's a good thing.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.