Some of the best football news on Sunday came before the games even kicked off.
In an interview on the radio home of the Bears, GM Ryan Pace offered up some optimism regarding injured right guard Kyle Long, whose return at the end of his stint on injured reserve could be more than just a pipe dream: “He’s on a really good path right now, and fortunately we had the option of the IR to return, you know and I think that’s a real possibility for us,” Pace explained during his radio hit on WBBM Newsradio, via Simon Kaufman of the Bears’ official website.
Long’s return would be a welcome addition to an offensive line that is missing his presence as an anchor, particularly in the running game. Bryan Witzmann has played 297 snaps at right guard since Long went down as has the fifth-worst grade at Pro Football Focus for his efforts. And when it comes to run-blocking, Witzmann’s 37.8 grade is the second lowest among all guards. Yikes!
If you recall, Long went down with a foot injury with less than four minutes left in the Bears’ win against the Jets on October 28. He was seen around Halas Hall in a boot two days later and placed on injured reserve on November 3. But because of the league’s recent rule change that allows two players placed on IR to be designated for a return, there has always been a chance for Long once his eight-week stint on the shelf was done. And judging by Pace’s words, you can imagine those chances received a little boost.
Injuries stink, but I don’t want to imagine the pain Long must feel watching a first-place Bears team compete without him after working his way back from previous injuries he suffered during some lean years with the team. But if the Bears take care of business down the stretch, Long would be eligible to return for the team’s season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. And should the team wrap up a division title before then, Long could rest up with an eye on starting a playoff game.
Sure, the Bears have a lot to accomplish before then, but it’s easier to see that possibility now that we have received some good news regarding Long’s progress.