BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long was one of the success stories of training camp last year, justifying his selection 20th overall in the draft and winning the right-guard position well before the end of preseason games.
This year has been just the reverse so far, with Long forced to miss some time in the offseason with a back strain, then sitting out the first five practices of training camp with what the team describe as a viral infection.
Long now has been cleared medically and will begin rebuilding some lost conditioning for the next few days before putting on pads and returning to practice.
He is expected to be in pads for “individual” drills next Saturday for the Family Night practice in Soldier Field. But his availability for the first preseason game, Friday Aug. 8 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, is problematic until his health and fitness for duty are established.
“I feel fine,” said Long, who did some light moving around and technique work Wednesday during practice. “I’m excited to be getting back.”
The offensive line took another hit of unknown severity when all-purpose sixth-man Eben Britton went down grabbing his left hamstring during a pass-rush drill blocking defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff. Ratliff stayed with Britton until the medical staff took Britton off. Britton was walking later around the ONU campus without apparent difficulty or treatment evident on the injury.
Long’s absence from practice may not translate into any sort of issue. He was unable to take part in offseason work last year before camp, yet won his position battle with guard/tackle James Brown early in the preseason and went on to win honors as a Pro Bowl alternate.
But the offensive line is a unit that requires cohesion in addition to Long’s relative inexperience in general. He started just five games at Oregon but all 16 last season for the Bears.
“The more he works with Jordan [Mills, right tackle], the more he works with [center Roberto] Garza, communication, all that stuff is part of this growing process for an offensive lineman,” said coach Marc Trestman. “I just think that from a standpoint of learning and doing it, we saw how quickly he’s able to learn and do it and play at a very high level. We’ll see how he does next week when he’s back in the lineup.”