Kyle Long played all 62 offensive snaps the Bears took in his first game since Nov. 13, 2016, so he reported to Halas Hall on Monday feeling “about as sore today as I was prior to anything surgically," as he described it.
“It’s a good thing," Long said. "It's something you miss when you're not in it. It's funny, I was talking to my dad and he's like ‘well are you sore?’ I was like yeah, and he's like well that's a good thing. It's one of the things I miss, being sore after a game feeling like you've done something. It feels good to be in here after a win."
Considering Long struggled to make it through practices last week as he worked to get back into football shape, that he played every single offensive snap was a little surprising to coach John Fox.
“He played probably a lot longer than I thought was possible as far as I think he was probably pretty gassed afterwards,” Fox said. “I thought he played very well, like our whole offensive line. Was it perfect all the time? No. But whenever you can run the ball as many times and as effectively as we did, I think it starts up front. So I think he played well.”
Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen combined to average more than six yards per carry in Sunday’s 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers behind an offensive line that got Long back, but still had to deal with more next men up. With Josh Sitton out with a rib injury and Tom Compton sidelined with a hip injury, and Hroniss Grasu injuring his hand in the first half, the Bears had to shuffle the interior of their offensive line for the second consecutive game. That meant Cody Whitehair moved back to center and Bradley Sowell replaced him at left guard.
The interior of the Bears’ offensive line was circled as a strength prior to this season, but the Sitton-Whitehair-Long trio hasn’t played a game together yet. Sitton was listed as a “limited participant” on the Bears’ injury report for a theoretical practice on Monday (the NFL requires teams playing a Thursday night game to release participation, even if they don’t practice the day after a game). Compton was a full participant, so the Bears should at least have him back at Lambeau Field. Fox would only say Grasu, who was listed as a limited participant Monday, "has a hand" and wouldn't detail the extent of his injury.
Until the Bears’ offense is able to at least threaten to stretch its passing game downfield, opposing defenses can continue to cheat up and scheme to stop the run. That makes the offensive line’s job harder, though getting back to full health could help lead to more games like the one the Bears had against Pittsburgh.
"It’s extremely tough, but you gotta get it done," left tackle Charles Leno said of trying to run block when opposing teams know what's coming. "You gotta get your job done. You gotta find a way. You gotta dig down deep and get your job done and that’s what we did."