Bears guard Kyle Long woke up after having neck surgery in December and put both hands over his head. His father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, gave him a knowing look — his son hadn’t been able to do that in a long time.
The three-time Pro Bowl player had three surgeries this offseason: to fix nerve issues in his neck; on his shoulder, where pain had been exacerbated by his neck; and on his elbow. Though Long wouldn’t detail a recovery timeline, he said Tuesday that he’ll be ready for the start of the season, if not sooner.
“If it were up to me, I’d be full-go right now,” said Long, who has started 17 games the last two years, in part because of a devastating 2016 ankle injury. “I feel as if I am. But there are certain things that are time-sensitive that we have to follow a certain timeline with, the neck being one of them. As you know, it’s not something you want to take lightly.
“We’re going to take all the time we need, but there will be no limitations once the season rolls around.”
That’s one of many reasons Long, who was honored in Des Plaines as the Bears’ winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, is excited about the upcoming season.
After attending coach Matt Nagy’s first meeting on the opening of the Bears’ offseason program, Long declared Nagy a “straight shooter,” “confident” and “an offensive genius.” He detailed what Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce told him after each watched their brother win the NFC title with the Eagles: “You’re gonna be awesome” with Nagy in charge.
Long praised new offensive-line coach Harry Hiestand, saying former pupils Olin Kreutz and Ronnie Stanley vouched for the man who coached Notre Dame’s linemen from 2012 to 2017.
“I know he’s one of the most underrated hires in football this offseason,” Long said.
Long said his brother Chris, who he joked “hates all offensive players,” admired new Bears tight end Trey Burton, his former Eagles teammate.
“He’s a safety blanket — he can be one for Mitch [Trubisky],” Long said. “And I think the other signings speak for themselves.”
A healthy Long would help the Bears as much as Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel or any of their other offseason acquisitions.
“I’d say that everybody’s very, very, very excited to get started,” he said. “It’s a fresh feel, and we’re all really stoked about it.”
Long was voted the Ed Block winner by his teammates last fall. He was honored at a luncheon that benefitted the Ed McCaskey Scholarship Fund, which gives scholarships to Maryville Academy attendees.
“I think coming from your teammates and coming from your peers, he overcame a lot last year,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said. “He always wanted to be out there for us. And I think that was reflected in his teammates’ vote.”
Long was flattered by the vote.
“There’s guys that came before me, and I remember sitting in meetings when that award was given out at Halas Hall and thinking to myself, ‘I’m not tough enough, smart enough or a good enough guy to ever win this award,’ ” he said. “But I guess I fooled my teammates enough to vote me in here, and it’s a tremendous honor to be here.”
NOTE: The Bears signed offensive lineman Earl Watford, who started 20 games during the last two seasons for the Cardinals, to a one-year deal. Watford, who has played guard and tackle on both sides of the center, was a Cardinals fourth-round pick in 2013. The Jaguars signed him last offseason but cut him in September, and Watford rejoined the Cardinals a month later.