Role reversal: Bears' Hroniss Grasu embracing guidance from Kyle Long


Role reversal: Bears' Hroniss Grasu embracing guidance from Kyle Long

When Kyle Long set foot on campus in Eugene as a transfer from Saddleback College in 2012, he was tasked with finding a way to untap his raw athleticism in an effort to crack an already established Oregon Ducks offensive line.

His veteran to look up to on the Ducks was none other than Hroniss Grasu.

Grasu, already a mainstay on Oregon's line as the starting center of an intricate but dominant Chip Kelly offense, took Long under his wing to help him grasp what it would take to excel as an athlete both on and off the field at a college football powerhouse.

The decision to lean on Grasu was a wise one for Long.

Long went on to make five starts for the Ducks during the 2012 season, raising his draft stock in the process. Long's brief success at Oregon resulted in him being chosen in the first round (20th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Bears. Since then, Long has started 31 games at right guard for the Bears and garnered two Pro Bowl selections, the first offensive lineman in Bears franchise history to achieve the latter.

[MORE BEARS: Jeremiah Ratliff - Kyle Long 'could be one of the best ever']

"It's crazy," Grasu told "I was just telling somebody this morning it's just crazy how times have changed when he came to Oregon. I was a guy there and I was helping him out, showing him around and now it's the complete opposite. Now I'm looking up to him. Learning from him and just having him here and how good of a football player he is, how smart he is and the attitude he brings to the game. Everybody can learn from him.

"He's been giving me advice ever since he left Oregon. Every year we were always talking all the time. He told me, 'Just go out there and have fun, like you're a kid in the backyard having fun. Treat it like it's backyard football with your friends. If you're having a fun attitude towards it, you'll play better.' Just seeing the way Kyle works at the game and does everything about football, you've got to have fun."

Once the pupil trying to absorb as much knowledge as he could, Long has now become the teacher, imparting his wisdom on one of his closest friends.

"When I came into Oregon, Hroniss was pretty much my vet," Long said. "He was this two-year starting center and I was a guy fighting for a spot on the team, and now I'm trying to help him out with calls and stuff. It's pretty funny."

And it's no surprise that Long played a big part in making sure that Chicago would be Grasu's NFL landing spot.

[MORE BEARS: Bears showing very little before preseason opener]

When the Bears signed 32-year-old veteran center Will Montgomery, who played for Bears head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase with the Denver Broncos and called his move to Chicago with the aforementioned coaches a "package deal," it looked like the chances of the Bears drafting an heir apparent to recently departed center Roberto Garza would be slim.

However, unbeknownst to the Bears front office was that a four-year starter with 52 games under his belt, a team captain that helped Oregon win two Pac-12 titles and reach the BCS Championship, along with three All-Conference awards would still be sitting on the board in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Grasu's relationship with Long was just the icing on the cake for the Bears.

"It was kind of late in the process," Bears GM Ryan Pace said last spring after selecting Grasu with the 71st overall selection in the NFL Draft. "We kind of had our evaluations in. Hroniss is easy; his makeup is off the charts. There’s certain guys on our board that we’ll check a ‘Bears’ box, a little ‘Bear’ that’ll pop up. To us, that’s a guy who has every trait we’re looking for. His makeup is outstanding. Grasu is one of those guys.

“And Kyle Long just confirmed all those things when we talked to him.”

Grasu couldn't have been more thrilled to hear his name called by the Bears, knowing he was going to a city like Chicago where his friend has already emerged as one of the leaders of the offense.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

"I'm just so proud to be a part of this organization and part of this city," Grasu said. "It's a great city, great people, great fans and I just hope I can help this team win as many games as you can and make all the fans proud of us and have the stadium sold out every game."

For the first time in his football career, Grasu joins a team where he isn't tasked with starting duties from Week 1. With Montgomery in the fold, Grasu will likely spend his rookie season learning Gase's offensive sytem, but he has two valuable assests in Long and Montgomery.

"I'm Just trying to learn the whole offense and just learn what everybody has to do and I think that every single day I'm getting better at that," Grasu said. "Knowing just not what I have to do at center, but what all five guys on the offensive line have to do and that just makes the game so much easier. Knowing what everyone's assignment is it just slows it down for me. I need to keep doing that and stay on top of my playbook and just going out there and being comfortable. At center you have to be a vocal leader out there, make the call and line up with confidence with everybody on the same page."

If Grasu the student is anything like Grasu the teacher, the Bears and Pace will have earned a passing grade in last April's Draft.

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Mike Trout says Browns will win more games than Bears in 2018

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout is quickly becoming an icon in American sports. The two-time American League MVP is enjoying another dominant season batting .335 with 23 home runs and 48 RBI.

On Tuesday, he took a swing at what Bears fans may consider a shocking NFL prediction.

“I’ve got the Browns having a better record than the Bears,” Trout told a radio reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trout's comments were made in response the reporter "talking up" Chicago.

Both the Browns and Bears have had productive offseasons that involved headline-grabbing acquisitions on offense. Cleveland drafted QB Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, traded for WR Jarvis Landry, signed RB Carlos Hyde and drafted a backfield mate for him in Georgia's Nick Chubb. They added potential lockdown corner Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick, too. Add all that to a motivated Josh Gordon ready to contribute for a full season, and there's good reason to be excited in Cleveland.

Still, it's hard imagining Trout can be that confident in a team that's won only one game over the last two seasons. And let's not forget what GM Ryan Pace has done this offseason, one that's been praised by analysts from all corners of the NFL universe. From new coach Matt Nagy to free-agent WR Allen Robinson and all the skill players in between, the Bears are ready to make a legitimate run in the NFC North.

Trout doesn't strike out much in the major leagues, but this prediction feels like it could be a back-straining whiff.

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is Matt Forte pushing for a coaching job with the Bears?

Is former Bears star Matt Forte going to be the team’s new running backs coach?

For now, that’s Charles London’s job, who was hired to head coach Matt Nagy’s staff earlier this year.

But on Tuesday night, Forte tweeted that he would like a coaching spot with Chicago sometime in the near future.

Serving as evidence, the now-retired running back responded to a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, which announced the Broncos’ hiring of former linebacker Demarcus Ware as a “pass-rush consultant on a part-time basis.” Forte tweeted at the Bears, saying that he is “available” to take on a similar role to Ware’s new Denver gig.

Forte’s tweet was relatively cryptic, and he never specified exactly what type of job he would want with the Bears. After finishing up a storied career this past season and solidifying his name as a Bears legend, Forte has proven that he could easily coach young running backs or even wide receivers at some point.

But isn’t this all just a joke?

Forte silenced the doubters by tweeting “I wasn’t joking” as a response to an article saying that his desire for a new occupation with the Bears was simply a gag. The former workhorse was also intrigued by a fan’s tweet asking “Coach Forte??”

The mere thought of having Forte back in Chicago with the Bears’ coaching staff sent fans on Twitter into a frenzy. In April, Forte came back to Halas Hall to ink his name on a one-day contract, successfully allowing him to retire as a Bear. Now, Forte wants a lengthier stay in the Windy City.

Ware’s role with Denver is not extensive by any means and, according to Schefter, he will work a pretty scattered schedule with Broncos players. What Forte’s role would look like with the Bears is completely unknown if his plan to coach becomes a reality.

Forte has the running back credentials to take on a coaching position. In eight seasons with the Bears, Forte racked up a combined 8,602 rushing yards, second to only the great Walter Payton. Forte’s 4,116 receiving yards as a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24 games with 100 rushing yards and 25 games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage also ranks second behind Payton.

Maybe this will be a new development in Chicago’s offseason plans, but there is no real talk of bringing one of the team’s all-time leading rushers back to the team as of right now.

Last month, NBC Sports Chicago announced Forte will be joining the network as a Bears game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. And we're not joking about that.