By Dan Bernstein– senior columnist

(CBS) Bears guard Kyle Long is proud, tough and understandably frustrated, still unable to return to regular practice action after offseason surgery to fix the right ankle that he injured last season.

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He’s also playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, opting to wait to have it repaired to address the more pressing concern. Long is in the midst of yet another positional change as well, moving to left guard after having played his first two seasons at right guard, his third at right tackle and last year back at right guard, while learning multiple offenses under different coordinators.

He was booted from practice after multiple fights Monday, excused from practice to have his ankle evaluated Wednesday and still the Bears insist everything is on track for a full recovery. But any prognosis from coach John Fox should be met with more than reasonable skepticism, and until Long is back to full participation in team drills, we should be open to multiple possible outcomes.

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One of those is not pushing him to return, instead understanding both the remaining importance of the three-time Pro-Bowl performer to any rebuild and the reality that this year has little meaning beyond some players’ development and the future of the coaching regime. Long may be best served slowing or shutting down instead of pushing himself to be ready for what’s likely to be a lost season.

He could matter more later, and healthier.

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Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.