Bears guard Long looks 'very promising' to return Sunday

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long practiced in full Thursday for the first time since suffering a ligament damage in a gruesome ankle injury last November. Long is expected to return Sunday when the Bears play the Steelers.

    Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long practiced in full Thursday for the first time since suffering a ligament damage in a gruesome ankle injury last November. Long is expected to return Sunday when the Bears play the Steelers. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/21/2017 7:20 PM

It's been more than 10 months since Kyle Long played in a game, and he hadn't gone through a full practice until Thursday.

But the three-time Pro Bowl pick won't lower his expectations when he returns, which should be Sunday.

 

"The expectations are where they (were) when I left," he said. "I always have high expectations."

Long's motto?

"If you play the game, you change the game," he said. "If you're out there doing anything other than that, then you're just witnessing it; you're watching. It's not a spectator sport."

Last week's starting guards are questionable at best for Sunday. Josh Sitton (ribs) did not practice Thursday and Tom Compton (hip) was limited. But all signs point toward Long's return.

"Our medical people think he's ready," coach John Fox said. "Our coaches think he's ready. We'll see how much he can endure, whether we have him on any kind of a pitch count. Right now it's looking very promising."

More injuries:

Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski remains away from practice while the team continues to deliberate how to proceed with the chest injury he suffered early in the Bucs game. He's not expected back soon.

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"Disappointed for him," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "Disappointed for us. Really thought he was going to play well for us, not only in that game, but moving forward. This will set him back some."

Tight end Zach Miller (personal) also did not practice Thursday. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (shoulder), running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) and wide receiver Kendall Wright (shoulder) were all limited. Cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle), running back Benny Cunningham (ankle) and quarterback Mark Sanchez (neck) were full participants, and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) was removed from the injury report, indicating he will play Sunday.

Amukamara could replace Kyle Fuller, who started the first two games, or they could split time.

It's still early:

Fears that Jordan Howard is in a sophomore slump after rushing for just 59 yards on 22 carries (2.7-yard average) in his first two games are premature.

Last year, when Howard rushed for a Bears rookie record 1,313 yards, he had just 3 carries and 22 yards after two weeks.

"He's running hard," offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. "We've got to do a better job up front and help him. It wasn't one guy. It was falling off the block here or there and not finishing the way that we need to up front to help him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When you get him to the second level, he's a good back. He's going to break tackles. It's tough for people to tackle him for four quarters. The Atlanta game we were much better than we were against Tampa."

After gouging the Falcons for 125 yards on 19 carries, including Howard's 13 carries for 52 yards, the Bear rushed for just 20 yards on 16 carries last week. Howard had 7 yards on 9 carries.

The long haul: Have the optimism and enthusiasm already worn off for the Bears after an 0-2 start?

"No," coach John Fox said. "In this league you're always two games away from disaster whether you're 2-0 or 0-2 or 8-2. You do this long enough, you see. You just gotta show up every week and do your best to prepare and then do your best to execute.

"We've fallen short in the first two weeks, but there is still a lot of football left. This is a marathon, and it's not a sprint. So that's the way we'll approach it, and it won't be any different this week than it was the first two weeks."

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

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