Bears GM Pace confident Long on his way to good health

INDIANAPOLIS - The release of four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton last week would seem to indicate the Bears are confident that their other starting guard, Kyle Long, has emerged from his multiple offseason surgeries ready to anchor the interior offensive line.

Long had neck surgery last December and about a month later tweeted that he was finished with his offseason medical procedures. He played all last season with a torn labrum and also suffered a hand injury around midseason.

"We feel good," Bears GM Ryan Pace said, a week after the team declined an $8 million option to retain Sitton. "Kyle is working hard. We feel good about his progress. That's part of the equation."

The Bears are still expected to address their interior O-line in free agency and/or the draft. Cody Whitehair has the versatility to start at guard or center, and backup guard Eric Kush should be back after missing all of last season with a torn hamstring. But journeymen Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell, who both started games last year when injuries thinned the ranks, are free agents.

Whitehair's versatility gives the Bears options in the offseason. But the sooner they can decide on where he'll line up in 2018 the better.

"His position flexibility gives us some flexibility as we go through this player-acquisition period," Pace said. "So we'll go through free agency, we'll go through the draft, we'll see how the dust settles. But once that player acquisition period is over, it's important for him to kind of settle in at one spot. But right now we have some flexibility with that."

Taking a closer look

A year ago, as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator, Bears coach Matt Nagy was part of a staff that was seeking a young quarterback to groom behind Alex Smith, and Nagy took a hard look at Mitch Trubisky.

Nagy learned how much more valuable an in-depth conversation could be as opposed to the speed-dating-type interviews conducted at the Combine.

"He was quiet and introverted and scripted," Nagy said of the first meeting with Trubisky. "And then we were fortunate enough to get him for six, seven hours afterward, and then we got to see the real Mitchell. So you've got to be careful with how much stock you put into these (Combine) interviews."

Getting coached up

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey rated as his top offensive tackle in the draft, and with good reason.

"I love that he got coached by Harry Hiestand at Notre Dame, which tells me when he comes out, he's going to be ready to play," Mayock said of the Bears' new O-line coach. "I don't care if you put him at right tackle or left tackle, he's going to be ready to play."

• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.

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