BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – As is the case with essentially every first-year NFL player, Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long will undoubtedly commit the occasional rookie mistake this season. But any questions regarding his strength were quickly answered on Sunday when the team conducted its first padded practice.
Long certainly held his own when the offensive and defensive lineman squared off in the individual one-on-one pass rushing drill, which is always the most enjoyable drill to watch from a spectator standpoint. On two separate occasions, Long pushed Bears defenders to the ground before they were able to head up field, the first player being defensive tackle Nate Collins, one of the club’s better inside pass-rushers.
Collins had a relationship with Long even before the Bears selected the offensive lineman with the 20th overall pick in last April’s draft, having played and roomed with Long’s older brother Chris, a starting defensive end for the St. Louis Rams, while the two were in college at Virginia.
“He’s very strong,” Collins said of the younger Long. “He’s a very strong kid. I know him personally. I’m very good friends with his brother, we went to college together and were roommates. I know him, he’s a big guy and is very, very strong. When he gets his hands on you -- that’s one of the biggest things we know -- when you are going around him don’t let him grab you because he’s got that strength."
Long told reporters after practice that he was more concerned with working on his technique as opposed to winning individual battles in drills.
“There’s a lot to learn for me,” Long said. “I’m just working on my footwork. With good footwork, you put yourself in good positions. I’m just going to try and continue getting better every day.
“It was good to put the pads on.”
With just five starts at Oregon before he jumped to the NFL, it’s fair to characterize Long as raw, since he also had to miss virtually the entire Bears offseason program due to NCAA rules. But veteran teammates are beginning to take notice of the rookie.
“He’s a gifted kid,” Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “He has it physically, it will just be getting it mentally and getting into his playbook. That’s going to come with time. This is not an easy offense to learn, I mean it took me a year or two. Even the first year I had to start, just knowing where your help is, how to be in the right position, where your help is, he’s learning all that. He’s an eager kid that just wants to get better, day in and day out.
“He asks me questions, he asks [Roberto] Garza questions, he asks coach questions. He does the same things I used to do when I was a rookie. He wants to have success. He’s going to be successful and I’m excited about his future.”
The Bears are taking a smart approach with Long at practice. The rookie received right guard reps with all three teams on Sunday in an effort to get the first-round pick on the field as much as possible in the preseason, and to prepare him for an inevitable starting role on the Bears’ offensive line.