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Bears G Kyle Long ‘rejuvenated’ physically and mentally as preseason nears end

Bears guard Kyle Long practiced in Denver earlier this month. | David Zalubowski, AP photo

When coach Matt Nagy told the Bears on Friday night that he planned to sit most of his starters Saturday against the Chiefs, it meant guard Kyle Long had made it to the season opener healthy.

After having three offseason surgeries — on his neck, left shoulder and left elbow — the Bears guard has spent the preseason having his snaps closely monitored. The Bears have given him regular days off in practice — “Old man days,” Long calls them — to make sure he’s ready for the start of the regular season.

Like the team’s other relevant players, he’ll spend the fourth and fifth preseason games wearing a baseball cap. For someone who has started only 17 games over the last two seasons because of injury, feeling comfortable is no small feat. Long began last season nowhere near 100 percent.

“I’m really proud of him right now with where he’s at — super proud,” Nagy said earlier this week. “I think he’s come a long way. He’s become a leader on that offensive line. He works hard. He knows probably just as much in some of our situational stuff as our quarterbacks. He takes it serious. That’s impressive from an offensive lineman.

“And not to mention he’s one of the biggest human beings I’ve ever been around. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Nagy got to know Long the old-fashioned way, not through text messages but rather conversation. More than just the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, the guard is one of the Bears’ most compelling, personable characters. He’s also one of the team’s oldest players. Among likely starters, only Sam Acho is older than Long, who turns 30 in December.

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“He’s got a very unique personality — in a good way, right?” Nagy said. “I ended up figuring out who he was through some good personal conversations, just one-on-one with him, and you build trust among each other.”

It gave Long a boost, too. Nagy’s offense and the tutelage of Harry Hiestand, his fourth offensive-line coach in six seasons, have reinvigorated him.

“I feel great — I feel young,” Long said, “I’m rejuvenated with this staff. With the youth we have in the locker room . . . It’s amazing. When I first got here, how much of a veteran team we had, and now it’s such a young player-led team. And it’s fun to be around.”