Bears take Oregon's Long with 20th pick
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Kyle Long followed his bloodlines to the NFL. He won't be lining up on the same side of the line as his famous family members, though.
The Chicago Bears selected Long with the 20th pick in the draft Thursday night, adding the guard from Oregon to a line that has ranked among the NFL's worst in recent years.
There were a number of ways the Bears could have gone, given their needs for depth and youth on both sides of the ball. They were also interested in moving down and acquiring more picks since they had just five.
Some mock drafts had the Bears going with linebackers Alec Ogletree of Georgia and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, along with Fighting Irish tight end Tyler Eifert. All three were on the board, but Chicago decided to draft a guard in the first round for the first time since 1960 in Long, the son of former Raiders star Howie Long and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long.
"Very clear statement that we wanted this player," general manager Phil Emery said. "The draft's not over, so we'll have other opportunities at those other positions. This is the player we wanted."
With Long in the mix along with newcomers Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and guard Matt Slauson, the offensive line will have a different look after allowing 44 sacks and 87 quarterback hits last season.
Kyle Long becomes the latest member of his family to reach the NFL even though his college football experience was limited.
A rifle-armed pitcher at St. Anne's-Belfield high school in Ivy, Va., he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round in 2008 but wound up going to Florida State on a baseball scholarship. Academic issues forced him to leave FSU, and he also wound up spending a night in jail because of a DUI in January 2009.
Long returned home, straightened himself out and enrolled at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif., in 2010 and wound up making the switch from pitcher to defensive end. He moved to the offensive line the following year with the Gauchos, and emerged as a key piece in Chip Kelly's breakneck offense in his lone season with Oregon in 2012 even though he made only five starts and 11 appearances.
In the five games he started at left guard, the 6-foot-6, 313-pound Long recorded six touchdown-resulting blocks and 36 knockdowns. And the Ducks led the Pac-12 in total offense and scoring.
"I feel like I can get a lot better with coaching, with the right guys around me," Long said. "I feel like have that opportunity in Chicago."
As for his past?
"I was a young kid and I was dealing with some stuff off the field that I had to work through," he said. "I'm past it now. I'm four years, 4½ years removed from those issues. I really feel like my best ball is ahead of me."
Emery said he thinks Long can play both guard and tackle spots. He believes the issues he had in the past are just that -- in the past -- and sees him emerging as a leader.
"All of us have fallen in life at one point or another," Emery said. "The important thing is do we get up and do we move forward? Do we try to prepare ourselves better. Not only get ourselves better, but get those around us better, and that's what this man has done. He was a team leader at Oregon. He was there one fall."
Emery also said he might be the best athlete in the family, although Kyle Long dismissed that.
Now, Long joins a team that won 10 games but made some big changes after missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. They fired coach Lovie Smith and replaced him with the offensive-minded Marc Trestman, and that wasn't the only big change.
Brian Urlacher, the heart and soul of the defense, is gone after his contract expired and they couldn't come to an agreement. Besides parting with the eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker, the Bears addressed some of their most immediate needs before the draft by signing Bushrod and Martellus Bennett. That gave them the top-tier left tackle and play-making tight end they craved, and it gave Emery some flexibility in the draft.
They lured Bushrod from New Orleans with a five-year deal, adding a Pro Bowl left tackle to a beleaguered offensive line and finally giving Jay Cutler the protection he needs on his blind side. They added a playmaker at tight end in Bennett and signed Slauson, the former New York Jets guard.
They'll have two new starting linebackers alongside perennial Pro Bowl pick Lance Briggs with D.J. Williams replacing Urlacher in the middle and James Anderson taking over for the departed Nick Roach on the strong side.
All that comes after they collapsed for the second straight year following a promising start. But for all their moves, there were still some major question marks hovering over the team as the draft approached -- among them the offensive line, age on defense, the fact that many of the newcomers are on one-year deals and the uncertainty surrounding Cutler's future.
He's entering the final year of his contract, meaning the Bears could have a tough decision to make, particularly if he has a run-of-the-mill season. Complicating matters is the Bears have no heir apparent in place.
But they again addressed a big issue in the first round, even if picking Long was a bit of a surprise.
"What matters is our team, how we see him fitting for us and do we have the type of dynamic athlete and leader that we need that can help us win championships," Emery said. "And that's this guy."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index