By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — It’s not often you see a raw first-round draft pick make obvious strides in a five-day stretch that included just four practices.
But that’s exactly what I’ve seen from rookie right guard Kyle Long this week.
When the pads went on for the first time Sunday, Long passed the initial eye test with flying colors, but it was still clear he needed work on his technique and was a little lost in team drills in terms of knowing what his teammates’ assignments were around him.
Fast forward to Thursday and, while it’s still not perfect, Long looked much more comfortable in his assignments, showed improved technique and was still mauling defensive linemen on both running and passing plays.
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable,” he said. “The first few days, I will admit I was really uncomfortable. I didn’t understand where I had help from, that kind of thing. Now I’m kind of getting an understanding of that, getting some comfort in my reps. It’s starting to slow down a little bit, but the game is still extremely fast. We’re getting there.”
Long said this is the most he’s ever had to learn in one week in his life and it’s the most advanced learning curve he’s ever been a part of. That includes a similar process he had to go through at Oregon last year when he was with the Ducks for just one season.
“I’ve had to expedite my learning before, but not at this scale,” he said. “It’s a lot of stuff you have to learn and there’s a lot of expectations that come along with being a draft pick, especially a high draft pick.”
Long told offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer to assume that he knew nothing when he got here. Together they’ve taken that approach and worked hard to correct it. So far it has resulted in good work on the practice field and the coaching staff has noticed.
“I think Kyle is working in an ascending matter,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s getting better every day and it’s not just happening slowly, but he’s picking things up and becoming more comfortable every day.”
It’s become pretty clear the Bears would love for Long to be their starting right guard Week 1 against the Bengals, but he still needs to earn the job. Of course, given the progress he’s made in five days, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be ready for that in five weeks.
NFL referee Jeff Triplett and a mixed crew of NFL and college officials were in Bourbonnais Thursday and will work with the team through Saturday’s practice at Soldier Field. They are getting work on the field during practice, but are also here to meet with the players about the new rules of emphasis this season.
I sat in on a meeting with the officials and watched the same video the players will see. One of the key points in that video includes a hit Bears safety Chris Conte put on Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell last season that resulted in a fine from the NFL. The video actually showed that because LaFell’s motion was redirected by another player towards Conte, that hit would no longer result in a fine — unless you are a repeat offender, which, because of that play, Conte now is.
Get it? Yeah, me neither.
Conte was originally fined $21,000 for that hit but later had it reduced to $11,000 after an appeal.
One Bears player was particularly excited about the referees being at practice Thursday. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall loved every second of it:
“It was awesome man. Me and Peanut (Tillman) got into it the other day cause he was holding. You know, we’re tired of that. So for the refs to be out here holding them accountable, it felt good. I guess that’s why you saw some big plays.”
Of all the things I tweeted Thursday from training camp, nothing got more attention than my tweet about Martellus Bennett owning a dog named Sebastian Janikowski. The illuminous tight end revealed that piece of information Thursday on Bears All Access on 670 The Score.
So a guy who nicknamed himself Martysaurus Rex owns a dog named Sebastian Janikowski. Simply fantastic.
– Injuries continue to be an issue this week, but the Bears may have suffered their most significant injury yet when Corey Wootton left practice Thursday with a hip injury.
– At 33 years old, 12th-year NFL veteran Julius Peppers is showing absolutely zero signs of slowing down.
– Trestman was on The Mully And Hanley Show yesterday and said he’s trying to make his players uncomfortable on the practice field. Listen to the interview here.
– Laurence Holmes and I did 30 minutes of Bears talk Thursday night from the dorms here in Bourbonnais. Listen to the podcast here.
The team’s morning practice has been postponed until this afternoon due to inclement weather.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.