Bears

Kyle Long's reported move to injured reserve would be a difficult call for the Bears

Kyle Long's reported move to injured reserve would be a difficult call for the Bears

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garofolo, the Bears are “likely” to place right guard Kyle Long on injured reserve, a move which could potentially end a disappointing season for the 30-year-old former first round pick. 

If Long indeed lands on injured reserve before Week 7, he could theoretically return for the Bears’ final three games of the regular season (players designated to return need to spend at least eight weeks on injured reserve). But if he were to miss the rest of the season, it would be a particularly brutal way for Long’s seventh year in the NFL — and potentially his time with the Bears — to end. 

Long re-structured his contract earlier this year, leaving it with only $1.5 million in dead cap for 2020. The Bears could save $8.1 million in salary cap space by releasing Long after the 2019 season, per Spotrac. 

Long talked in the offseason of finally feeling healthy after not having to undergo offseason surgery following three injury-plagued years. A Pro Bowler in his first three seasons in the NFL, Long played in eight, 10 and eight games from 2016-2018, and has started four of the Bears’ five games in 2019. 

The Bears listed Long as being limited or out of practice over the last few weeks with a hip injury, which was why they held him out of their Week 4 win over the Minnesota Vikings. 

Long did not play well in the four games he started this year, with his team-worst PFF grade of 37.5 matching the eye test. On the “Football Aftershow” on NBC Sports Chicago following last week’s Bears-Raiders game, longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz said of Long: 

"You could make an argument that they have to take a good, long look at Kyle Long, and where he’s at, and does he need weeks off… does he need to go on IR, is Rashaad Coward a better option. If you take a really good look at the film, and this is hard for me to say, because I am a big fan of Kyle long, and I’ve watched him for a long time play a high level of football, where he was a dominant right guard… What I’ve seen in the first 3 weeks, and in this week, I wonder about his body, I really do, and I wonder where he is in his career.”

Placing Long on injured reserve, though, would be an attempt for the Bears to fix an offensive line that’s lagged in both pass protection and run blocking. 

Long’s replacement could be either veteran Ted Larsen or greenhorn Rashaad Coward. Larsen did not travel to London with the Bears due to a knee injury suffered in Week 4, so depending on his status after the Bears’ off week he may not even be an option in a week when the New Orleans Saints come to Soldier Field. 

That would leave Coward, who played his first snaps as an NFL offensive lineman after Larsen’s injury against the Minnesota Vikings. He possesses intriguing athleticism, but also was developed almost exclusively as a tackle after switching positions (he began his NFL career as a defensive lineman) back in the spring of 2018. 

Another option for the Bears could be to promote undrafted free agent Alex Bars from their practice squad. Bars — who was recruited to Notre Dame by Bears’ offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and played under him for four years there — had a good preseason, and was regarded as a likely mid-round draft pick before his 2018 season in South Bend ended in September with a torn ACL and MCL. 

Better play from Hiestand’s right guard wouldn’t solve everything that’s ailed the Bears’ offensive line this year, but it would be a start. Placing Long on injured reserve certainly would not be an easy decision made inside Halas Hall, given how much he’s sacrificed and fought through to be on the field over the last few years. 

But, rather unfortunately, it might be a path the Bears need to take. 

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The Bears are embracing an underdog mentality as playoff push continues

The Bears are embracing an underdog mentality as playoff push continues

After the final horn sounded on the Bears' signature win of the season so far — a 31-24 trouncing of the Cowboys that wasn't as close as the final score — and all the patented 'Club Dub' celebrations had concluded, a subdued, resolute and focused locker room remained.

These aren't the 2018 Bears — no matter how decisive and dynamic Mitch Trubisky was tonight; no matter the fits the team's depleted front seven gave one of the most talented offensive lines in the league; no matter the balanced plan of attack deployed by Matt Nagy, or that they're now one game closer to an improbable run to the playoffs.

Three weeks ago, this team had been all but dismissed by the greater Chicago faithful. And perhaps that was fair. In year two of the Nagy-Trubisky coach-quarterback pairing, the team was on pace to regress in just about every category you could conjure — most importantly wins. Now, they're 7-6, above .500, and only 1.5 games behind the Vikings for the No. 6 seed in the NFC (with a matchup against them looming in Week 17). 

Tonight, the process may have been even more encouraging than the result, especially looking forward to a challenging three-game close to the season.

"When you win, your confidence goes up. Players, they play different in regard to when you're winning," Matt Nagy said postgame. "You play looser. You don't press as much. I think right now the identity between the defense, the offense, it doesn't feel like one of those deals where if we don't hold them to under 14 points, we don't have a chance to win."

Trubisky was as sharp as he's ever been in one of the bigger games of his career, tossing for 244 yards and amassing four total touchdowns — three through the air, one on the ground. And talk about loose: He also put together his most impressive rushing performance in over a calendar year, breaking out for 63 yards on 10 attempts, including a late-game 23-yard touchdown (to put the Bears ahead 31-14) that ignited Soldier Field around him.

His resurgence has come in lockstep with the Bears' season turning. Perhaps that's no coincidence.

"I think it says we're resilient, stick together, believe in each other even when nobody else believes in us," Trubisky said. "That's a special group in that locker room. We want to keep this feeling going, focusing on the little things, focusing hard, sticking together, doing our jobs."

Allen Robinson said that the team's confidence has "never wavered." Charles Leno said the offense is firing on all cylinders. The defense, missing four starters, didn't miss a beat until the Cowboys tacked on some garbage-time fluff late in the game.

A crucial, yet challenging, stretch looms. First, the Bears travel to Lambeau Field to face the Packers for the second time this season. Then, back home for Kansas City — though mortal, still one of the more potent offensive attacks in football. And finally, to Minnesota for a potential postseason play-in game. The Bears probably need all three of those games to be wins, save for late-season collapses from the Rams and Vikings (not impossible), to pull off a playoff berth. As it stands currently, they project as underdogs in both those road contests, and possibly even against the Chiefs (though a win in Green Bay would go a long way, there). 

As far as Nagy is concerned... Good. 

"I'm okay with that. For our guys, it's different," Nagy said of assuming the underdog role for the stretch run. "Last year, there was a different type of mentality because we didn't know, there were no expectations. This year, a lot of expectations. So now here we are at 7-6. Who knows really what we're going to be at. We know we have some really good teams coming up. Our guys, as you can see, they're just focused on winning each week. That's what they're doing."

Under Center Podcast: Trubisky shines in big win over Cowboys

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Trubisky shines in big win over Cowboys

Laurence Holmes is joined by the Football Aftershow crew of Lance Briggs, Matt Forte, Alex Brown, and Olin Kreutz to break down the Bears' huge win over the Cowboys. The guys give their initial thoughts on the victory (1:05) before discussing what impressed them most about Mitch Trubisky's performance (5:00), what the possible return of Akiem Hicks and his leadership could mean (15:30), and how the team stays focused heading into Green Bay for Week 15 and beyond (25:00).

 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: