Rozner: Bears' Long still fighting good fight

 
 
Updated 9/19/2018 6:36 AM
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  • Kyle Long clears the way for Mitchell Trubisky during the Bears' win Monday night at Soldier Field.

    Kyle Long clears the way for Mitchell Trubisky during the Bears' win Monday night at Soldier Field. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

It might be easier at this point to count the number of body parts Kyle Long does not have to tape, brace or numb before a game.

Listing all the areas that need attention would run us out of space in a hurry.

What's impressive, given the state of his anatomy, is how much the Bears' right guard still wants to go out and flatten someone.

And let's face it, NFL offensive linemen aren't exactly the pulling guards they once were, leading the strong toss or power sweep with malice aforethought.

The league frowns on simplicity and strength, preferring deception and speed, forcing its biggest offensive players to back up most of the time.

But when they have a chance to move hard off the ball, they enjoy returning the favor and punishing the defense, and Long had a chance Monday night to pulverize an opponent with 4:56 left in the third quarter.

On a second-and-4 from the Bears' 40, Jordan Howard went around the right end for 5 yards and a first down, and Long on the pull had blitzing Seattle linebacker Barkevious Mingo lined up for a big hit.

Instead of taking on the block, Mingo went to the turf to avoid contact and Long got chopped in the right knee. He got up limping and though he stayed on the field, Long needed a few plays to get himself back together.

"I'm good," Long said with a wry smile after Monday night's victory. "I went to go block a guy and he didn't feel like getting blocked, so he went down and he caught my knee.

"But I landed on top of him and everything's attached."

Approaching 30 years old in December, Long is the oldest starter on the roster and has been through plenty the last few years, including shoulder, ankle, neck, elbow and hand injuries, and surgeries on his neck, shoulder, ankle and elbow over the last two years.

Like the car that got you through college, it's all duct tape and Bondo these days, minus the spray paint. Thing is, Kyle Long doesn't care about a fresh coat because the appearance isn't relevant to him.

"Your new normal is dealing with some things and that comes with playing the game and playing hard," Long said. "I think I'm up for it and I've proved that before. Now, I just have to do it every week.

"It's just the way it is in the league. I've been in it for a few years. I've been lucky enough to play offensive line, the greatest position in football, and along with that comes some bumps and bruises."

Add a knee to those "bumps and bruises," just one more thing for Long to manage as he weaves his way through a practice week however he can en route to the next Sunday.

"The only thing on my mind is getting prepped for the Arizona Cardinals," Long said. "It's football. I try to play a physical brand of it and along with that comes some dings.

"Another part of football is dealing with those dings and moving on to the next game."

Long is still all smiles after a win, just as he was when he broke in as a rookie in 2013. But the days between games and preparing himself to take the field on Sunday looks very different, the inevitable result of a long NFL career.

"If you're talking about 24-year-old Kyle, yeah, I used to just put my gloves and cleats on, not tape anything, just go out and try to beat people up," Long said with a laugh. "Yeah, it's different. You ask anyone who's six years in and it's different, but I have to get used to that as my new normal."

Six years may not seem like a long stretch to civilians, but it's an eternity in the NFL, which chews up and spits out its players like so many entrails, discarding with extreme prejudice those who no longer serve the beast.

The league is hard on its players and downright mean in every way, but Long always knew what he was signing up for -- and he still lives to attack on Sunday.

"It's football, man," Long said. "It's always been this way."

So he will keep on taping it together and fighting for another first down.

Good luck telling him he can't.

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