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Bears’ Long sees OTA time at right tackle

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — No one associated with the Chicago Bears wanted to call it a glimpse of the future — near or otherwise — when guard Kyle Long lined up at right tackle this week in organized team activities.

Nevertheless, it was easy to project him to that position because it’s been done ever since he came into the league and because he had never before lined up at the spot. And it definitely made for a potentially intriguing line mix.

“This was the first two days where I was able to get out there and do that,” Long said Wednesday. “We had a need today in practice. We had a couple guys out, so coach asked me and I went out there.

“I was a little like a fish out of water, but that’s to be expected.”

When Long came into the NFL after starting part of one season at tackle for Oregon, the expectations were he could eventually play a tackle spot for the Bears. With Jermon Bushrod on the left side there was no need, and the team has been content with inconsistent Jordan Mills at right tackle for two seasons.

In OTAs, Bushrod and Mills were missing this week and Charles Leno Jr. lined up at left tackle. With an absence of tackles, Long moved out to right tackle and former Vikings guard Vladimir Ducasse played right guard.

“I’m so near-sighted I can’t really think past today or this week,” Long said about moving to tackle. “I’ve always felt I could do it but who knows?

“We have guys that play right tackle so we’re going to figure out where we’re going to go. Right now they needed somebody in practice so I jumped at the opportunity.”

Head coach John Fox never attaches a lot of significance to non-padded practices for linemen, and definitely wanted no part of pouring fuel on the media fire about a Long move. Nevertheless, he saw some things to like about Long playing the spot.

“He’s obviously a very, very capable athlete,” Fox said. “He’s got great strength, great athleticism, so I think he’s capable of playing anywhere across the line.

“Right now he’s a starting guard and we’re out here trying to get better as a football team, learn a new system. We had a shortage of tackles right now. We’ve got a couple guys in the training room, so we took a look at him there today.”

Fox did point out an advantage to having Long ready to play tackle even if he remains the starting right guard. Long could be insurance.

“In this league, especially on game day, you typically go into a game with seven linemen,” he said. “You’ve got to be ready for some multiple position changes.”

Communication issues with players alongside him would be an immediate issue if he makes a significant move of this type.

“Obviously when you’re inside you’ve got a guy on either side of you to help with protections and assignment stuff,” Long said. “When you’re outside on the edge there’s a lot more space you have to deal with. The type of athlete you’re playing against changes.

“So there’s a lot of variables that play into it. I’m just trying to get better at as many things as I can, as a football player to help the team.”

Long still has a few years left on his contract after this season, but teams usually like to reserve the highest pay on their offensive line for the tackle position.

So it’s not difficult to see the Bears putting their two-time Pro Bowl guard at tackle and paying him like one in a few years.

For now, though, Long insists he’s still a guard, and none of the injuries appear to be something that would affect the team in terms of training camp at the end of July. Bears coaches and personnel do not discuss injuries at organized team activities unless it’s a major problem.

“People get dinged up,” Long said. “It’s the offseason now so we’re not too worried about it. Nothing serious.”


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