Long connects with Cutler as fruitful minicamp ends
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org May 12, 2013 10:11PM
The Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during practice at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 13, 2013 12:11AM
Bears rookie guard Kyle Long knows what quarterback Jay Cutler looks like. How couldn’t he? But it was good to put a face to the name in person, he said — good to shake the hand of the guy he’s working his tail off to protect.
‘‘Jay came out here and we met and we walked through the hallways,’’ Long, the Bears’ first-round pick, said after rookie minicamp ended Sunday. ‘‘He seems like a really cool guy. He was just checking stuff out, and he just wanted to make sure we were learning and working.’’
Cutler visited Halas Hall this past weekend because he wanted to meet and welcome the rookies. Long, of course, figures to be one of the most important to the recently offensive-minded Bears, especially with the emphasis the team is putting on interior protection.
‘‘We hadn’t met before,’’ Long said. ‘‘We just had some text interaction. Getting an opportunity to shake his hand was a cool deal. I’m looking forward to protecting him.”
But it will be the last time Cutler and Long talk in person for some time. While Cutler is coming in, with the Bears’ organized team activities beginning Monday, Long is heading out because of an NFL rule that prohibits him from taking part in OTAs until after his final exams at Oregon.
In other words, the last three days at minicamp were invaluable for Long. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer used rookie camp to go over assignments, techniques and footwork with his offensive line. Long said there’s ‘‘a list of things’’ he needs to work on as he heads off on his own — he’ll just have to work on them in unconventional ways.
‘‘I have a coach [longtime NFL offensive line coach Tony Wise] that I’m working with that is in coordination with the coaching staff here,’’ Long said. ‘‘Obviously, it’s unfortunate that I won’t be able to be out here for OTAs, but I’ll be back out as soon as possible. I’ll be taking progressive steps to get to where I want to be as a player and be able to help this football team.’’
With Long’s limited experience at guard, there are concerns his progress will be slowed. But the Bears — at least publicly — view the situation as just a minor hindrance for a projected starter.
‘‘With technology today, he won’t physically be here, but he’ll be here,’’ Kromer said. ‘‘We’ll be able to get over Skype or use some sort of method to make sure that I can meet with him and we can keep him up to date with what we’re putting in offensively. I can technically watch tape with him over Skype. There’s a lot things we can do.’’
On the field, Long felt comfortable during coach Marc Trestman’s self-described ‘‘fast, chaotic’’ practices because they weren’t too different from his fast-moving days at Oregon. But getting a feel for the coaching dynamics, going through the playbook and installations and facing the speed of NFL-caliber players were crucial.
Long practiced at right guard and right tackle Sunday as Kromer tested the versatility of the linemen. It was an adjustment for Long after focusing exclusively on guard.
‘‘When you only dress seven linemen, they have to be multiple-position players, so you have to be versatile, and that’s what I’m doing,” Kromer said.
But the Bears firmly believe guard is the best fit for Long, even though he’s open to anything, even special teams.
‘‘I’d like to play, period,’’ Long said.