The Bears placed Kyle Long on injured reserve on Tuesday, two days after he aggravated his shoulder in a 15-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Long will miss the final four games of the 2017 season, and the Bears have not decided whether or not he’ll need surgery, coach John Fox said.
That Long started nine games this season is, to anyone who’s been around him over the last few months, an impressive feat. His shoulder hasn’t been right in about a year, and the ankle surgery he underwent last November had some serious complications that involved significant weight loss. And with all that, he still played more than half the Bears’ schedule.
“It’s impressive,” center Cody Whitehair said. “You know, he’s a tough guy. He’s what the Bears are all about: Tough guys that are fighting through certain injuries. So he’s going to be missed, for sure.”
While Long’s toughness should be beyond question — “he’s been through a lot, clearly,” left tackle Charles Leno added — he probably didn’t play at the Pro Bowl level the Bears came to expect from 2013-2015. Still, Fox was right in this assessment: “We were definitely a better team with him in there.”
In shutting him down for the final quarter of the season, the hope is Long gets a head start on his recovery for the 2018 season. The Bears, which have a 12-32 record in the John Fox/Ryan Pace era, need Long at his best if they can expect a turnaround and their first winning season since 2012.
“You could definitely tell he’s been playing through some pain,” Whitehair said. “It seems like after every block he’s grabbing something. So it’s tough to see him out but hopefully we can get him healthy.”
Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21.
Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.
All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.
The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players.
The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.
The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.
Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons.
Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.
Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.
CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.
The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.
It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.
We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.