BOURBONNAIS — Bears guard Kyle Long apologized for “the scent of my B.O.” when he returned from a post-practice autograph session for an interview Monday. But body odor is a good thing for the Bears’ three-time Pro Bowl lineman. It’s a sign that, despite a regulated training-camp schedule that includes days off for maintenance after multiple offseason surgeries, Long not only is working up a good sweat, he’s practicing and playing harder than ever. He’s getting there.
“He’s working super hard,” Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “When he’s out there, he’s rolling and there’s no backing off. His plays have been gradually increased. [Monday] he probably had his most plays out there and has made steady progress. I feel good about the direction he’s going. He’s on a great path right now.”
The extra week of training camp for the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, has helped the Bears build up Long’s practice reps without overdoing it. Hiestand said he doesn’t know if Long will practice on a regular basis this season.
“We’ll see how he holds up as we increase his reps,” Hiestand said. “As we get closer to the season, he’ll be involved every day.”
Long would rather be playing every day, but whereas he used to need days off to nurse an injury, now his scheduled rest days are part of a program to build strength, avoid unnecessary wear and tear and ease him back into what Hiestand calls “football shape.”
And after two injury-filled seasons in which he missed 15 of 32 starts, Long is on board with the program.
“It’s been great,” Long said. “You always want to be on the field. But they have a plan in place, and I’m not limited. I’m fully out there for team [drills], doing all that kind of [physical] stuff. I think they’re just being smart with it. They understand that the season is the most important part. I’ve gotten more and more reps. That’s gaining my conditioning and all the aspects in the coalesce factor.”
Does he feel as good as he did when he started 47 of 48 games for the Bears and made the Pro Bowl in 2013-15?
“I feel really good,” he said. “I wish I could go into the Marty McFly [time machine] and see how I felt and let you know. But as for right now, [compared to how] I felt the past year or two, I feel pretty darn good.”
It’s still relatively early. Not until the regular season begins
Sept. 9 against the Packers at Lambeau Field will Long begin to answer the biggest question of all: Will he be the same player he was when he was starting every game and going to the Pro Bowl?
“It’s a fair question,” Long said. “Health has been an issue with me, and that’s just the nature of the game. I play a physical style of football. I’m just relying on my teammates and doing everything I can to get the younger guys ready and get myself ready, and we’ll take it one day at a time.”
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