BOURBONNAIS — The days of riding around Olivet Nazarene University’s campus in giant Big Wheel bikes with his teammates are long gone for guard Kyle Long. Training camp has been less fun this year.
He just wants to play again.
“Well, I’ll tell you it [stinks],” Long said Sunday after the final open practice for fans. “It [stinks] when you can’t be out there every team rep when you’re used to running off the field after a team period with the rest of the [first-team offense] and I’m sitting over there in a hat watching. It [stinks]. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you.
“I love the game of football, and when it’s taken away from you and when you’re limited to just practicing against other O-linemen during individual [drills], it’s tough.”
The Bears are being patient with Long after his gruesome right-ankle injury, which he suffered in a loss to Buccaneers on Nov. 13. He had a bad reaction to post-surgery medication and lost nearly 50 pounds.
Over the past week, Long has been inserted into team drills, but only for a limited amount of plays.
It doesn’t help that Long knows he needs the work after a switch to left guard. Veteran Tom Compton started in his place Thursday night against the Broncos in the preseason opener. Hroniss Grasu also has played left guard with the starters.
“That’s the thing that’s tough when you’re limited reps,” Long said. “It’s finding that balance between pushing it too much and getting yourself ready.”
Long called his position switch a “radical change.” He’s only played right guard and right tackle in the NFL after a limited playing career at Oregon. He said his issues are technique-based and subtle.
“The physical end of it has sped up,” Long said. “Mentally, I know what I’m doing. It’s just a matter of tying the mental and physical aspects together. I feel a little awkward, like, just having my feet under me and timing of certain plays.”
Having Josh Sitton around for advice helps, but Long needs the repetitions. But the Bears also need Long to be healthy when the regular season opens. Hence, their cautious approach with him. The interior of the offensive line won’t be one of the Bears’ strengths without him.
“This is my first time through something like this,” Long said. “And honestly, I’ve been champing at the bit to get back, but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season – even though I fully understand that. You’re kind of short-sighted when you’re injured because you want to get back at it as fast as possible.”