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Chicago Bears

Arthur Arkush: Humble Kyle Long retires after 7 NFL seasons

Bears guard Kyle Long celebrates after a 48-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 30, 2018, at Soldier Field. Long announced on Twitter that he is retiring as a member of the Bears.
Bears guard Kyle Long celebrates after a 48-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 30, 2018, at Soldier Field. Long announced on Twitter that he is retiring as a member of the Bears.

Three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman and the team’s longest-tenured homegrown player Kyle Long announced Sunday on Twitter that he’s retiring as a member of the Bears.

“Some Chicagoans are probably happy to hear I’m finally stepping away and getting my body right,” Long tweeted. “Some Chicagoans may be sad to hear this. Either way u feel about it, I want you to know how lucky I am to have spent time in your city. I became a man while playing in Chicago. Thank you.”

Long’s modesty aside, Bears fans surely will be sorry to see one of the team’s tougher, more affable and respected players walk away from a career that began spectacularly but unfortunately, like too many, was derailed by injuries.

Long, 31, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and younger brother of fellow recently retired NFL star Chris Long, was selected 20th overall in the 2013 draft by former general manager Phil Emery. A talented but raw one-year starter at Oregon, Long made a seamless NFL transition, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl nods and starting 47 of 48 games to begin his career.

“Special thanks to Phil Emery, [coach] Marc Trestman and the rest of that staff for bringing me in,” Kyle Long tweeted. “Thanks to and happy birthday to the young lady named Virginia [team owner McCaskey] as well. [GM] Ryan Pace, thank you for keeping me around as well.”

Unfortunately, each of Long’s last four seasons ended with trips to injured reserve, the most recent in October stemming from a hip issue. One of the NFL’s more naturally gifted offensive linemen missed a combined 34 games from 2016 to 2019, when his body deteriorated physically after multiple ankle, shoulder, neck and knee injuries, among others.

Long’s injury-shortened 2019 was especially disappointing after he’d agreed to take a paycut and participated in every offseason and training camp practice after a 2018 offseason in which he underwent three surgeries. He’d reshaped his body after complications from an ankle operation and was in his best shape in years. Long also said over the summer he was in the best place mentally and physically that he’d been in since his rookie season, on the heels of returning from short-term IR in 2018 in time to make his first and what appears will have been his last postseason appearance.

The hip injury – announced via his trip to IR after he played every snap of the Week 5 loss to the Raiders in London after his return from a separate knee ailment that sidelined him the previous game – also created a domino effect on an underachieving Bears offensive line that returned all five starters. None was more accomplished than its senior member Long, at his best a mauling run-game catalyzer and dependable pass protector.

Sadly, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen him at his best. He was briefly suspended by the team in training camp when his infamous temper raged in a practice fight during which Long swung a helmet at teammate Jalen Dalton. And it became clear early in the season that the brief, better health fortune he seemed to experience in the spring and summer had run out.

Long, who agreed at the peak of his powers to move from his dominating right guard post to right tackle on the eve of the 2015 regular season to compensate for the team’s poor planning, and who played through myriad maladies, including a torn shoulder labrum, is the kind of player every quarterback wants in his bunker. His legacy may be a bit complicated, but he was undoubtedly one of Emery’s bigger draft successes and made positive and lasting contributions to three Bears regimes during his memorable seven-year career.

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