The start of the Bears' offseason program this week marks the first time that guard Kyle Long can work in the classroom with new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand.
"I know that he is one of the most underrated hires in football this offseason," Long said. "I know from speaking to many of his players from college and in the pros that they speak very highly of him and that they're very excited to see me get to work with him."
Hiestand has returned to the Bears for a second tour of duty. He first served as the team's offensive line coach for five seasons from 2005-09 under coach Lovie Smith, helping the Bears win back-to-back NFC North titles and reach Super Bowl XLI in 2006.
During that time, Hiestand played a key role in sending center Olin Kreutz (2005 and 2006) and guard Ruben Brown (2006) to the Pro Bowl. Kreutz was also named first-team All-Pro in 2006, the first Bears offensive lineman to accomplish that feat in 17 years.
LG Kyle Long runs up field during a 2017 game at Soldier Field.
Long, meanwhile, is trying to regain his Pro Bowl form. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons with the Bears from 2013-15 while starting 47 of 48 games. But injuries have limited him to 18 contests the past two years.
"I'm feeling really great," Long said Tuesday. "It's obviously been a long few years, a long couple of months, but we have really good doctors here in Chicago and we have a great training staff, and I'm really looking forward to putting the helmet on again."
Long told reporters this week that he had "a few operations" this offseason, but he characterized them as minor and said he expected to be "flying around" by the start of the regular season.
"If it were up to me, I'd be full go right now," Long said. "I feel as if I am, but there's certain things that are time sensitive that we have to follow a certain timeline with. We're going to take all the time we need, but there will be no limitations once the season rolls around."
Long can't wait to get back in the huddle with promising young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who is already demonstrating leadership qualities.
"What Mitch Trubisky was born with was something that not a lot of people were born with," Long said. "I can't explain it. When you're around him, you feel it and it's real. Quiet confidence and a sense of calm and comfortability with the situation, any situation he's put in."
Long is equally excited to play for first-year head coach Matt Nagy, describing the former Chiefs offensive coordinator as a confident, straight shooter and offensive genius. Long spoke with Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce in January after they watched their brothers (Chris Long and Jason Kelce) lead the Eagles to the NFC title in Philadelphia.
"I was standing with Kelce in the family room after the NFC Championship Game and he kind of hit me and he was like, 'Oh, you guys have Nagy now. You're going to be awesome,'" Long said. "And I said, 'If the best pass-catching tight end in the league says that, I'm happy.'"
Long is also happy that the Bears signed former Eagles tight end Trey Burton, who will line up in Kelce's position in the Chicago offense.
"He's a guy that's very, very underappreciated, not really well known to the masses," Long said. "But if you look at his percentages in receptions, when he gets targeted he comes down with the ball and holds onto it. And he moves the sticks."
Long reported that his brother, Chris, is also a big fan of the new Bears tight end.
"He really likes Burton, and he hates all offensive players," Long said, "so for him to say something nice about Trey Burton speaks volumes about the man that he is."