KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs signed veteran offensive lineman Kyle Long after his year-long retirement with the expectation that he would arrive in training camp and immediately compete for a starting job.
It took a little longer than either of them imagined.
Long fractured what’s called the tibial plateau in his knee during a June workout, landing him on the physically unable to perform list throughout camp and into the regular season. He was finally designated to return to practice on Nov. 9, which began a three-week window for the Chiefs to decide whether they would add him to the active roster.
That occurred just before the Tuesday deadline, and Long was on the practice field Wednesday as the Chiefs (7-4) returned from their bye to begin preparing for the Broncos on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
“He’s had a couple of good weeks of practice. He’s easing his way back in,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He’s going to practice today. I think the term is ‘activated onto the roster,’ then we’ll just see as the week goes on, how it goes. We’ll just see. We’re taking it day by day with it. But he’s doing a heck of a job.”
The Chiefs carved out roster space by placing running back Jerick McKinnon and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders on injured reserve. McKinnon hurt his hamstring in their 19-9 win over the Cowboys heading into the bye, and Saunders has been out with a knee injury that popped up in Week 8 and has kept him out of games ever since.
Long’s return comes at a good time for Kansas City.
Right tackle Mike Remmers remains on injured reserve after hurting his knee, though he could be designated for return at some point. His understudy, Lucas Niang, just returned to practice this week after dealing with some injured ribs.
Andrew Wylie has filled in admirably in their place, but Long at some semblance of his best would be a significant upgrade.
“We’ll just see how Niang does and how he feels going forward,” Reid said of the second-year pro, who opted out of his rookie season. “He’ll get some work today, but Andrew has experience, too. If they’re good to go, then they go.”
Long, who turns 33 on Sunday, signed a $1.5 million contract for this season that includes up to $3.5 million in incentives, most of which he’s unlikely to reach because of the injury. But prior to it, Long said that he’d done “everything in my power to get myself back to where I knew I could come in and play the level of football I know I can play.”
Long started 76 of the 77 games he played during seven injury-filled years in Chicago. He started all 16 games at right tackle in 2015, the last of three straight years he made the Pro Bowl, but he also has extensive experience playing guard.
That means Long should provide valuable depth at multiple positions even if he doesn’t necessarily start.
“We have flex with him, which is good. I think it’s just important right now that he kind of gets back in the swing and just gets a few opportunities to move around a little bit doing football,” Reid said. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
NOTES: FS Tyrann Mathieu had no lingering problems after a slight knee injury left him questionable against Dallas. “He’s a tough kid,” Reid said. “He approaches his rehab that way.” ... The Chiefs were required to wear masks the first three days of the week, regardless of vaccination status, in accordance with the league’s COVID-19 rules for bye weeks. “The league is taking precautionary measures,” Reid said. “Our guys have done a very good job with it so far.”