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Healthy Long 'on a great path right now'


Aided by the occasional day off to rest, Bears guard Kyle Long is making steady progress in training camp as he rebounds from multiple offseason surgeries.

"He's working super hard," said offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. "When he's out there, he's rolling and there's no backing off. We're going to be smart in how we progress him through camp, but Kyle's working extremely hard and he's on a great path right now."

After playing in 47 of 48 games his first three seasons with the Bears, Long has missed 14 of 32 contests the past two years due to injuries. The 2013 first-round draft pick spent this past offseason recovering from injuries to his neck, shoulder and elbow.

"For him, it's getting healthy and it's the progression of getting more and more plays and getting back into football shape," Hiestand said. "He's done a great job with his body, getting it ready. But then there's no substitute for football shape. For what he's doing now, his plays have been gradually increased. [On Monday] he probably had his most plays out there and has made steady progress. I feel good about the direction he's going."

Hiestand would like to have the five linemen who will start the season opener in Green Bay work together as much as possible. But the veteran coach is just fine with Long, Eric Kush, Earl Watford and second-round pick James Daniels all getting first-team reps at guard in practice.

"It's always important to get that group together," Hiestand said. "The good news is the way coach [Matt Nagy] runs the practice, we get a lot of plays in. So we've gotten these guys a lot of work together regardless of whether it's Earl in there or Kyle in there or Kush in there.

"That group's got a ton of work. I don't feel like, 'Jeez, we don't have continuity.' They've learned how to have continuity with six or seven guys right now. We're on the right track there."

After spending the last six years as Notre Dame's offensive line coach, Hiestand is back for a second stint with the Bears. He served in the same capacity on Lovie Smith's staff from 2005-09, helping center Olin Kreutz and guard Ruben Brown both reach the Pro Bowl.

The attitude and desire of the current Bears linemen reminds Hiestand of the unit he coached during his first stop in Chicago.

"I'm just super fortunate to be around another really good group of guys," Hiestand said. "When I was here before, I was lucky to have that. I'm lucky to have it again. These guys come out here and go to work every single day and I've been super impressed with that.

"As we get into the dog days, it's easy to kind of try to get through it and they're not doing that. They're coming out to improve. And we have things to improve and we've got to keep working. We've got a lot of things we've got to get better. But the beauty is the willingness and effort to do it is outstanding. That's very similar."

Hiestand believes that much of that attitude stems from head coach Matt Nagy's leadership.

"The reason why they are excited is because coach has a plan and knows what he wants to do, and it's really clear to everybody," Hiestand said. "So the expectations for the plays that we run, how we run them and what we run them against and the way they're run, is very clear and it's a matter of all of us just getting better every day at executing those plays. That's what's exciting.

"Everybody wants to work a job where the expectations are clear. Well, coach makes it crystal clear to all of us—what our roles are, what the details are—and now we just need to go get better at it."