Chicago Bears

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

BOURBONNAIS — Saying that it’s been a tough offseason for Kyle Long would be putting it mildly.

Long has been recovering from a pair of injuries, a serious one to his ankle that required surgery and another to his shoulder. On top of that, the Bears are moving him to the other side of the offensive line, switching his position for the second time since he arrived in Chicago by moving him from right guard to left guard.

All that has made for a pretty crazy few months. So being back with the Bears for the first day of training camp allowed Long a return to normalcy that has been evasive for some time.

“First time being away from the team for that extended period. First time missing any games, like not being able to be on the sideline for games,” Long said Thursday. “Mobility was really tough. Gives you an appreciation for your health, and it makes you feel sympathetic and empathy toward people who don’t have great mobility. So I’m really trying to get back to where I was and keeping it that way.”

Long previously revealed that he lost a good deal of weight while recovering. He added Thursday that his body didn’t react well to medication he was taking. The best way he described a challenging recovery period was perhaps also the scariest.

“It just doesn’t make you feel like you,” Long said. “And I don’t like to be in that state.”

So being able to play football again is a welcome reality for the guy who’s arguably been the Bears’ best player for several seasons now.

Thing is, even that is providing a challenge for Long.

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Changing positions is nothing new for the Oregon product, as the Bears shifted him from right guard to right tackle two years ago. Now he’s getting another new position, a move to left guard.

Long’s being a good sport about it and expressed excitement over getting to play a new position. But it’s another major thing added to this offseason — and now preseason — whirlwind.

“I like it. It’s fun. It’s a different view on things,” Long said.

“Be patient, but also understand that every rep is an opportunity to learn. You’ll be humbled over and over and over again, but you keep showing up, you keep swinging. You can only play one play at a time.

“There’s certain things that bug you as a player and there are certain things that are out of your control, and then there are certain things you can capitalize on, that I can take the knowledge I have acquired over the last few years at guard and at tackle and apply it to my new position. … We have a lot of guys in the room who can help me out as well. I just need to take it one day at a time.”

So entering this new season, there seems to be nothing but question marks surrounding the two-time Pro Bowler: Will Long return to full health by the start of the regular season? Will the transition to the left side of the line go smoothly? Will Long be the type of elite offensive lineman he’s been in the past?

Those are enough uncertainties to make anyone concerned. How’s Long handling things?

“I wouldn’t say I have a lot of anxiety in regards to my health and my future. I would say that there’s a lot of pressure. Pressure’s good. I’ve got to fight pressure with pressure. I’ve got to work harder and harder in the training room, in the weight room and on the field.

“There’s no real timetable right now, I’m just happy to be out here. Coach is letting me ease back into it. I knew it was going to be a long process when I initially got injured, and I don’t think the timing could have been much worse there toward the end of the season.

“But the cards are what they are, and we’ve got to play the hell out of them.”

What you need to know from Bears-Steelers: Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen give Bears overtime win

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USA TODAY

What you need to know from Bears-Steelers: Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen give Bears overtime win

Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are the Bears’ version of thunder and lightning.

The running back combo teamed to get the Bears down the field in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, giving the team its first win of the 2017 campaign, a 23-17 victory at Soldier Field.

After a couple critical turnovers erased the Bears’ 10-point halftime lead, the game spun into overtime. Cohen dropped jaws with what at first appeared to be a 73-yard touchdown run to end the game. But officials ruled he stepped out bounds just inside the 40.

Enter Howard, who covered the remaining 37 yards with a pair of strong rushes, including the 19-yard scamper that got him into the end zone and gave the Bears the win.

Howard finished with a monster day: 138 yards and two touchdowns, enough to wipe away the memory of his second-half fumble that set up a Steelers touchdown. Cohen added another 78 yards to that as the Bears rushed for 220 yards as a team.

The success on the ground was enough to make Mike Glennon’s paltry passing statistics fairly meaningless. Glennon finished just 15-for-22 for 101 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His lone scoring toss went to Adam Shaheen, the rookie tight end’s first NFL catch.

In the end, it was an impressive effort from the Bears all around, who despite not playing good-looking football defeated a high-caliber Steelers team. Match that with the near-comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, and the Bears have looked better than expected in their two games at Soldier Field.

What on Earth was Marcus Cooper thinking?

The most exciting and most unbelievable play of the game came as time ran out on the first half, when Marcus Cooper became the NFL goat of the day with an inexplicable fumble at the one-yard line.

Let’s rewind. The Steelers marched their way into the red zone in the final seconds of the second quarter and lined up for a field goal with just a few seconds left. Sherrick McManis, the Bears’ special-teams ace who recovered a muffed punt earlier in the game, blocked that kick, and Cooper picked it up. Cooper, one of the Bears’ starting cornerbacks, sprinted the ball back like 70 yards, appearing destined to cruise into the end zone. But instead of cruising into the end zone, Cooper incredibly stopped short of the goal line, allowing a Steelers player to chop the ball out of his hands.

What?!?

To make matters even stranger, the Steelers for flagged for illegally batting the ball out of the end zone after the fumble at the one-yard line. That prolonged the first half, allowing the Bears to line up at the half-yard line and try for a touchdown. But Charles Leno was flagged for a false start, and the Bears had to settle for a field goal.

So what looked like a 14-10 halftime edge for the Bears then looked like a 21-7 halftime lead only to result in a 17-7 halftime lead. Bonkers.

Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper turned in maybe the worst gaffe in the NFL this season

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AP

Bears cornerback Marcus Cooper turned in maybe the worst gaffe in the NFL this season

Sherrick McManis blocked a field goal and Marcus Cooper picked the ball up with nothing but green grass ahead of him on his way to the end zone. 

Then, for some reason, Cooper eased up a few yards from the end zone. What happened next was straight out of a Leon Lett highlight reel: Vance McDonald hit Cooper from behind, leading to Cooper fumbling the ball and it being batted out of the end zone for a penalty. The Steelers went to the locker room, then had to come back out for an untimed down from the one-yard line. After Charles Leno was whistled for a false start, the Bears kicked a field goal.

So Cooper cost the Bears four points. But...why? What was he doing?