Bears' Long already good and getting better

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears guard Kyle Long looks back at jeering fans during their 31-15 loss to the Saints Monday night at Soldier Field in Chicago.

    Bears guard Kyle Long looks back at jeering fans during their 31-15 loss to the Saints Monday night at Soldier Field in Chicago. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • AP file 2014

    AP file 2014

  • Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) and quarterback Jay Cutler (6) wait for the next play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long (75) and quarterback Jay Cutler (6) wait for the next play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) celebrates a touchdown with guard Kyle Long (75) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) celebrates a touchdown with guard Kyle Long (75) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/28/2014 7:51 AM

Before Kyle Long did it, only nine other players in Bears history had made the Pro Bowl in their first two seasons.

Long is the only one who did it after starting just four games at the NCAA's FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) level.

 

But based on his exceptional raw talent, the Bears made Long their first-round pick, and he admits he was raw -- and still is.

"Last year I was told what to do a lot of the time, and I still didn't know what they were talking about," Long said. "Now they can tell me what to do, and I'll know what they're talking about.

"Hopefully next year I'll be able to tell myself what to do. It's a process. Baby steps."

More like giant strides from where he began.

Long's Pro Bowl berth as a rookie was even more impressive considering he missed the Bears' off-season program because of Oregon's late school year. He still wound up starting all 16 games.

Now, it's a question of how good Long can become once he gains more experience. If he can make back-to-back Pro Bowls in his first two seasons after starting four games of major-college football, how far can he go?

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"Unbelievable talent," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "And I think he'll agree that he's got so much more room to grow. He's going to be a better player next year, and he's going to be an even better player the year after that."

That's good news for Cutler or whoever winds up playing quarterback behind Long for the next several years.

Long may be as close to Cutler as anyone on the team, and why wouldn't he be any quarterback's best friend after not allowing a sack all year, according to STATS, LLC.

"He doesn't say a lot," Cutler said of Long. "But he likes to joke around. Sometimes he gets a little amped up. He's fun to be in the huddle with. If you have 10 of those guys, 11 of those guys, you're going to win some football games."

Cutler has become like another big brother to Long, who has a real big brother in St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, who had 41 sacks over the past four seasons before suffering a fractured ankle in this year's opener.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Cutler sounded like a real big brother when he talked about Kyle's second Pro Bowl.

"Well-deserved," Cutler said. "I couldn't be happier for him. Couldn't be prouder for him.

"It just tells you how physically gifted he is and how determined he is. He doesn't come out there just because it's fun. He comes out there with a purpose.

"He wants to be one of the best in the league, and he will be by the time he's done."

It took Long about halfway through his rookie season to realize he belonged with the big boys and that he could live up to the faith general manager Phil Emery showed in him by using the 20th overall pick on a project.

"When I got drafted, I was in the same boat with a lot of people thinking, 'Why the heck did they pick me?' " Long said. "I mean, I was excited, but I really didn't understand (why).

"I knew there were a lot of expectations that come along with being a high pick, so I was just trying to be the best teammate I could be and trying to be a sponge and learn."

Then, during a 27-20 Bears victory in Week 9 at Green Bay, Long knew he belonged.

"I was really sick, and I was being really soft and talking about how bad I was feeling," Long recalled.

"And the guys rallied around me, and I (thought), 'If I can get through this, I can get through anything,' and, 'there's powers out there greater than me that are helping out all around us, so you've got to just put your faith in those higher powers and keep putting one foot in front of the other.' "

Baby steps.

• Follow Bob's Bears and NFL reports on Twitter@BobLeGere.

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