Kyle Long was conspicuous by his absence at Bears practice at Halas Hall on Wednesday, two days after being kicked out of the final practice at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais for engaging in altercations with multiple teammates.
As it turned out, Long’s absence was excused rather than a disciplinary measure, coach John Fox said. He was at a “doctor’s appointment” to check out his surgically repaired right ankle, which was broken last season, Fox said.
Long will be back at practice on Thursday night, when the Bears work out at Prospect High School, Fox said.
Any discipline for the incident was kept in-house. “Obviously there was some remorse there,” Fox said. “He was embarrassed for himself and for the team. Those things happen. Our guys, we’ve got a bond and he’s one of our family and he’ll be treated as such — like any kind of thing that happens in a family. Guys adapt and respond and I think everything’s fine.”
By now, Long knows any discretion is going to get a lot of attention. Even his father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, gave him a light, but public, admonishment Tuesday. “He’s got to get it under control,” Howie Long said on the Rich Eisen Show on Fox Sports Radio and DIRECTV.
Fox talked to Kyle Long about the incident, but it’s not like he needs an intervention. Long is an emotional player who has acknowledge the frustration of a long, slow recovery from a “severely broken ankle” he suffered against the Buccaneers in Week 10 last season. It’s not surprising that a little over-physicality was at the root of Monday’s altercations. Long can’t wait to get out there and hit someone.
“It was probably just him getting back at it and anxious,” center Cody Whitehair said. “We really haven’t talked much about it. He is our brother, at the end of the day. So we’ll get through it.”
But it’s still one step at a time at this point. Long’s participation in practice has been limited. And Fox indicated Long might not play at all in the preseason. The cautious approach makes sense after Long played through a labrum issue and missed a game with a triceps injury before the season-ending broken ankle.
We’ll have to wait to hear from Long himself to know for sure — and that likely won’t be until next week at the earliest — but it sure seems like the gradual pace of his recovery boiled over Monday.
“I think any time a player’s injured, that get something that they love taken away form them,” Fox said. “But we have a lot of resources here. Kyle knows he’s loved here — by his teammates and by everyone in the build. He’ll get through it and we talked about it and I think he feels confident in that. He’s surrounded by a lot of people that care about him and he’ll do just fine.”
Indeed, Long has the support of his teammates, specifically his linemates.
“We just kind of try to rally around him,” Whitehair said. “Obviously we knew he was upset and you just kind of gotta give him a little bit of space and let him cool down, for sure.”
Outside of moral support, there isn’t much the Bears can do to get Long in a better state of mind. He’s still in the early stages of participating in practice. Lining up for the first offensive snap in Week 1 against the Falcons on Sept. 10 at Soldier Field and getting through the game unscathed is the only real antidote.
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