It almost certainly won’t be with the Bears, but offensive lineman Kyle Long is eyeing a return to the NFL after a one-year hiatus.
Long hired agent Jeff Nalley with the intent of finding somewhere to play next season, a source said. He is fully healthy, the source said, and thinks he’s in ideal shape to restart his career as an unrestricted free agent at 32.
Long hasn’t made any official announcement or comment, other than tweeting: ‘‘Thank you for the well wishes everyone, particularly the amazing Bears fans who have treated me as family for years.’’
Long was listed at 6-6 and 332 pounds when he last played for the Bears in 2019. He dropped to 255 pounds in retirement and is back at 315 after months of training for a comeback.
He is one of the most popular and accomplished players in recent Bears history, making the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons as a right tackle and guard. But his departure was far from amicable, as the Bears put him on injured reserve early in the 2019 season and declined his 2020 option.
Long thought the team gave up on him and essentially exiled him from Halas Hall. Nonetheless, he said in January 2020 that he was a ‘‘Bear for life’’ and that ‘‘I’ll never play in another jersey again.’’ Still, there’s minimal chance that relationship can be salvaged.
When healthy, Long was excellent. Unfortunately for him and the Bears, he had major injury trouble starting in 2016. In his last four seasons, Long played in only 30 of a possible 64 games.
Long spent part of his retirement working in the media, including as an analyst on CBS Sports Network’s ‘‘That Other Pregame Show’’ on Sunday mornings.