It was a phone call Kyle Long wasn’t expecting. On two counts.
Offensive line coach Dave Magazu was calling, the Sunday night before the Bears began Week 1 preparation for the Packers. Magazu was letting Long know that the team had cut right tackle Jordan Mills, Long’s wing man the past two years.
Long appreciated the call. Then…silence for a few moments before the other shoe fell.
“He said, ‘And you’re playing tackle this week,’” Long said. “That was kind of the extent of it.”
But Long’s willingness to make a change from the comfort of right guard, where he’d been voted to Pro Bowls his first two seasons, “shows you what kind of a team guy he is for doing that,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “I’ve been in some situations where guys just flat-out say, ‘I’m not going to do that’ because it’s not in their best interests.
“He did it for us; he did it to help us in the situations we were in.”
Long had occasional reps at the right-tackle spot during training camp but not many more than offensive linemen normally take as a way of working against different defensive linemen. Left guard Matt Slauson told Long not long after Long was the Bears’ No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft that he thought the organization had drafted Long to play tackle.
But for a player voted to Pro Bowls as guard in his first two NFL seasons, “it’s been a learning process since then.”
Long and Slauson are the only two Bears on either side of the football to play every snap this season. Pro Football Focus charges Long with four sacks allowed, but three came in the first three games. Long was extremely critical of his play last Sunday in the loss to Washington when he was beaten to the outside by linebacker Trent Murphy.
“I take great pride in my work, in trying to keep the quarterback clean,” Long said. “While it hasn’t been perfect, I think with the guys around me, the coaching staff and just my attitude towards competition and football, we’ll be ok.
“I’m not jumping ship just yet.”
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That will come as good news to his coaches and quarterback. Charles Leno Jr. struggled mightily at right tackle in preseason and has since become ensconced at left tackle. Jermon Bushrod has never played right tackle in his years in New Orleans and here.
Long had played left tackle for 11 games at Saddleback Community College in 2011, then played just 11 games at Oregon, with five starts.
“[Making the switch is] not easy to do, not easy to do,” Cutler said. “Especially kind of the time that we had him to do it, to be able to switch positions like that, I think it speaks how talented he is, what kind of character he has. There have been days when it hasn’t gone very well for him and he still keeps battling. He’ll continue to keep getting better.”