By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – After spending the week preparing to potentially play last at Tampa bay last Sunday, Bears guard Kyle Long instead was forced to watch at home from his own television. Like fans, he had to sit back and suffer through the Bears’ ugly 29-7 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
Long last played against those Buccaneers in that very stadium, suffering a gruesome injury to his right ankle last November. It was an injury that required subsequent surgery, forced a long rehab that was both physically and emotionally draining and brought the lower part of his right leg down to the bone with such little strength.
When the Bears arrived at training camp in Bourbonnais, Long was ready to work with Week 1 on his mind. He had finally overcome the grueling rehab and was ready to push through the pain tolerance and fight back to the field. As Long revealed Wednesday at Halas Hall, he suffered a setback by pushing too fast.
“I was going to be ready to go during training camp and I tried to do some stuff, and I think I went a little fast,” Long said. “So, back to the patience. It’s like when you have your two pilots at the front of your plane and they’re going through all their checklists pre-flight. The last thing you want to do is have a guy who just gets in and turns the engine on and says, ‘Let’s go.’ You want to make sure everything is checked off before you go down the runway.”
The Bears have been in a tough position without Long on their offensive line. Veteran Tom Compton has filled in at left guard, though he left Sunday’s game with a hip injury. Right guard Josh Sitton is dealing with a ribs injury. Center Cody Whitehair was forced to slide to left guard, and Hroniss Grasu manned center.
Coach John Fox believes that Long can be the same three-time Pro Bowl player once he returns to action, despite the work done to repair his ankle. He also feels that Long is in position to return against the Steelers this Sunday, though practice this week will ultimately determine that. Long could join receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle) in making a season debut Sunday.
Long has been working with the Bears’ training staff to ensure he can attack the same way in a game situation.
“This week will be good for that, if it is the week that I go,” Long said. “I’ll be able to get some more reps. I got some reps last week. So we started to knock the rust off. But being able to develop that rhythm and that trust will be good, too.
“There’s a process, and you have to check all the boxes before you move on.”