Long takes ‘great first step’ in return to practice

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Bears guard Kyle Long returned to practice on a limited basis Friday for the first time since injuring his right foot Oct. 28 in a win over the Jets.

Long, who won’t appear on the injury report because he remains on injured reserve, is eligible to return to the active roster for the Bears’ regular-season finale against the Vikings a week from Sunday in Minnesota.

Coach Matt Nagy said that the Bears will monitor Long on a daily basis, focusing on his recovery from the injury and his conditioning level.

“We’ll just keep communicating and talking to him and then we’ll see what we think is best as we go,” Nagy said. “But today was a great first step.”

Long was thrilled to return to practice after being sidelined for more than six weeks.

“It feels good to be in a helmet and running around,” Long said. “I don’t feel like a ghost in the building, which is nice.

“It’s really frustrating [to be injured]. If you’re a football player, you want to play football and if you can’t do that, then you don’t feel like yourself. I’m just happy we’re winning.”

After only one practice, it’s unclear whether Long will be able to return to game action next week against the Vikings, in the playoffs, or at all this season.

“Obviously in a perfect world, you’d want to have as much experience as you can getting back after an injury,” Long said. “But there really is no timetable, so it remains to be seen what the process is going to be like the next few weeks. It felt great to be out there today and that’s all we’ve got is today.”

Nagy was asked about the possibility of Long skipping the regular season finale and returning for the playoffs.

“That’s something that we’d have to think about and think through,” said the Bears coach. “If we get to a point to where we feel like we can have him ready to play in the last regular season game, if that would make sense, great. If we feel like just talking through with him that we get into the playoffs and that’s something he can do, we can test that out, too. We just have to see.

“More so for him where he feels, he’s got to be honest with us, and then we’ve just got to see conditioning-wise because it’s different. It’s not like going out and running a mile or two miles; it’s just a different type of conditioning.”

Asked about improving his conditioning, Long said: “I’ve got to make it so I’m less out of breath the next day that I was before. The training staff has done a great job here keeping me as prepared as possible. There’s no timeline. We’re just trying to work forward and progress every day.” 

Selected by the Bears with the 20th pick in the 2013 draft, Long was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons while playing in 47 of 48 games. But the past three years he has missed 21 of 46 games due to injuries.

Nagy has been impressed with Long ever since they began working together when the Bears kicked off their offseason program in April.

“The one thing that jumped out to me when we first got started was how attentive he was in meetings, how much of a leadership role he took with that offensive line and then how smart he was with everything that we do,” Nagy said. “He knew stuff inside out. That was natural for him. I think he's a natural-born leader. And then on top of that, he was playing really well. You see him out here at practice, you forget how huge he is. He's massive. He's strong, powerful, quick for his size and it's good to get him back. It's a good thing.”

In other injury news Friday, safety Eddie Jackson (sprained ankle) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (sprained elbow) both remained out of practice and were listed as doubtful on the injury report, meaning that they are not expected to play Sunday against the 49ers.

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