LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that right guard Kyle Long will come off injured reserve and play again this year, perhaps as early as Sunday’s regular season finale at Minnesota, or in the postseason, for which the Bears currently hold the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
Long was placed on injured reserve with a right foot injury on Nov. 3, making him eligible to return against the Vikings in Week 17. The Bears are also –- presently –- scheduled to host a playoff game the following week, but a victory over the Vikings and a Rams loss to the 49ers would give the Bears a first-round bye and the chance to host the Divisional round at Soldier Field.
“Last week he had that good Friday [practice], now hopefully this week he can jump back in and continue to get better and better,” Nagy said on Wednesday. “I used the word last week with being cautiously optimistic and I mean that. I think he’s in a good place now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he has some good practices this week and we’ll see where he’s at in regards to his position.”
Nagy later added: “I think there’s that possibility [that Long plays again this year] for sure, absolutely.”
Long has plenty of motivation to return.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection and the Bears' first-round pick in 2013, he endured disappointing season after disappointing season until Nagy took charge and changed the team’s culture.
“I’ve never been a part of [the playoffs],” Long said on Wednesday. “And I know how hard this team has worked since Day One. The first meeting with Coach Nagy. The first meeting was the day I got my Ed Block Courage Award. And it’s kind of ironic that now I get the chance to come back and help my team. They’ve been so supportive. And I want to do my part. I’m just one of 11 guys on offense. And I’m trying to not be the one of 11 who’s not doing his job.”
Unfortunately, Long is no stranger to injuries.
Long suffered a gruesome ankle injury in 2016 that cost him the final eight games that year and the first two games of the 2017 season.
Last year, Long missed six games altogether with a variety of ailments. Long underwent neck, shoulder and elbow surgeries in the offseason, but he returned in time to start the Bears' first seven games this season.
But there’s a chance to end this year on a positive note.
“The way I’ve been preparing for the last eight weeks is, every week, prepare as if I’m going to play,” Long said. “You never know which team you’re going to see again and you never know what bit of information that you learn in a meeting is going to pay dividends down the road. With an opportunity this week to possibly play and having prepared for Minnesota, I find comfort in the fact that I’ve prepared for this team before, from a mental standpoint, and I look forward to this week.”