Bears’ Kyle Long talks health, upcoming season and new rivalry with brother, Chris

Chicago Bears, NFL News, NFL Offseason, Philadelphia Eagles

Kyle Long is ready to tear it up on the football field for the Chicago Bears in 2018…but for now, he’s tearing it up at the dinner table opposite his older brother, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Chris Long.

Family is of the utmost importance to Kyle Long — whether it’s his Chicago Bears family, with whom he’s entering his sixth season, or his actual family — father, Howie; mother, Diane Addonizio; older brother, Chris; and younger brother, Howie, Jr.

Long gives up a lot for his family. For the Bears, he puts his body on the line, year after year — last season, that resulted in three offseason surgeries, including on his neck, shoulder and elbow. The lingering injuries had landed Long on injured reserve for the last two seasons, a blow last year especially to a Bears team trying to rebuild around first-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Seven months removed from his last surgery in December, Long is feeling confident about training camp and the Bears’ upcoming season, their first under new head coach Matt Nagy.

“It’s hard for anybody to say they’re 100 percent, especially if they’ve played so long in the league, but I’m doing everything I can to be as helpful as I can to my team come the season,” Long tells FanSided. “I’m really excited to see how we can build on last season.”

A big part of that, at least for Long and his group, is offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, whom the Bears hired away from Notre Dame this year and who makes his return to Chicago after years away. Hiestand was the Bears’ offensive line coach from 2005 through 2009 under offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

“I’m really excited to see how we can build on last season.”—Kyle Long

“He’s done a tremendous job with us so far,” Long says. “I overlapped with a few of the players early in my career who got to play for him, and they all spoke very highly of him. We’re very lucky to have him. He’s just a stickler for technique, and that’s very important for our position.”

Hiestand’s influence on the offensive line group will benefit more than just Long, though there’s no question that veterans and newcomers alike, like 2018 second-round pick James Daniels and 2016 second rounder Cody Whitehair, should blossom under his tutelage.

But it’s also in the development of second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the young backfield that Hiestand, Long and the rest of the offensive line group can shine.

We’ve seen a whole generation of young NFL quarterbacks make huge strides in their second seasons, from the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff to the Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz. How is Trubisky’s development coming along?

If you ask Long, beautifully.

“He’s really taken the reins of leadership,” Long says. “He’s the leader in our locker room. He’s somebody everyone really looks to when we need a big play and he’s a guy with great energy and, obviously, a really talented quarterback.”

Trubisky got a lot of help from his team this offseason, from a new head coach in Matt Nagy to new weapons in free agency, including wideouts Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton, himself fresh off a Super Bowl win.

Then there are the rookies — like second-round selection wide receiver Anthony Miller out of Memphis, who rounds out Trubisky’s arsenal well.

“It’s always good to have someone to throw to,” Long says.

The Bears are a sleeper team heading into 2018, no question. A 5-11 record in 2017 and netting just three wins the year before that will definitely make people overlook you — even more so when you play in a division as stacked as the NFC North.

It’s not out of the question that an NFC division could send three teams to the playoffs — the NFC South did it in 2017 — but the conference defines parity, with teams like the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Rams and even San Francisco 49ers looking dangerous.

Then there are the defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles, home to Kyle’s older brother, Chris. The win gave Chris his second ring; Kyle is still searching for his first.

But when it comes to winning the Super Bowl, it’s win for the entire family.

“Oh man, it’s been awesome to be able to see Chris reap the benefits of being in the league and working so hard,” Kyle says. “I know what he’s had to go through physically and mentally to get to where he is today, and I couldn’t be more proud of a guy than I am of my older brother.”

The Super Bowl isn’t the only competition Chris will take part in this year — he recently joined KYle for a promotion with Applebee’s in celebration of their AYCE Riblets and Chicken Tenders that pitted the two against one another in an all-you-can-eat battle.

“Everybody has to pick a side,” Kyle says. “I chose the riblets side. It’s been a lot of fun to get to have that kind of competition with my brother. It’s an all-you-can-eat deal, so we took full advantage of it when we went in there. I’m #TeamRiblets for life.”

Fans can pick a side on Twitter or Instagram — Chris and #TeamTenders or Kyle and #TeamRiblets — and join their rosters in a national sweepstakes. Fans who post using either hashtag along with #Sweepstakes between July 9 and July 31 will have the chance to be drafted by either brother, and 20 winners receive a VIP Team Card for a year’s worth of free Applebee’s Riblets or Chicken Tenders plus gear.

I point out that, from a football standpoint, Kyle may have ended up with the better deal — riblets, after all, are basically pure protein, while Chris’ choice of tenders involves a lot more salt and fat to work off.

“Well, Chris is a bit skinner than me,” Kyle laughs. “But either way, you can’t go wrong.”

Chris and Kyle’s father, Howie, used to take them to Applebee’s after games when they were younger, so the promotion actually touches on something special the brothers hold dear.

But when it came to keeping two growing football players fed growing up, “that was all my mom,” Kyle says. “She’s the one who went out and got all the groceries and did all the meal prep. But I can tell you there was a lot of chicken to be eaten in our kitchen, and a lot of ribs too. My parents understood there were a few staples we really enjoyed, and I’m really blessed and lucky to have been able to grow up in a house that could provide food like that.”

“We’ve been going at it since we were kids, and we’re always up for a little friendly competition, on and off the field,” said Chris Long.

You can decide who won the contest by watching the spot above, but on the field, there’s no question Chris takes the most recent W as the defending Super Bowl champion. The Bears and the Eagles don’t face each other in the regular season this year, and as mentioned previously, the NFC is a tough conference.

I have to ask Kyle one final question — any chance at all the Bears end up meeting his brother, Chris, and the Eagles in the playoffs this year?

“Yeah. In the NFC Championship,” Kyle says.

You heard it here first.

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