Kyle Long intends on living his best life now that he’s retired from football, and it’s unlikely that will include a return to the gridiron.
The former Bears three-time Pro Bowl right guard, who announced his retirement on Twitter earlier this month after seven seasons, said this week in Miami on Super Bowl LIV radio row that he’ll only don the navy and orange as an NFL player, a sign of gratitude for the franchise that drafted him and stuck by him through the ups and downs.
“I just found that it was time for me to amicably figure out a way to end it with the Bears. I thought that they did right by me for so many years — by drafting me, by re-signing me, by keeping me around,” Long said Wednesday on WSCR-670-AM. “They saw what I saw. The writing was on the wall. We found a way to do it the right way. That’s why you’ll never see me wear another jersey.”
Long, 30, rose meteorically from a one-year starter at Oregon to the 20th overall pick in the 2013 draft to starting 47-of-48 games in his first three seasons with the Bears, all ending with Pro Bowl honors. He was a mauling tone-setter for the Bears O-line, one of the more physically gifted players in the NFL and as colorful a character as there was inside Halas Hall.
That’s when injuries began to take their toll. First, a torn shoulder labrum that he put off having surgery on and played through in 2016. Then, several grueling ankle injuries. Two offseasons ago, he underwent separate surgeries on his neck, shoulder and elbow.
Long continued to battle, enjoying in 2019 his first operation-free offseason in two years and saying it was the best he’d felt — physically and mentally — since after his rookie season. However, it became apparent early on last season that Long still wasn’t right physically, and he was abruptly sent to season-ending injured reserve with a rather mysterious hip injury in Week 7 after playing every snap of his final game.
“Unfortunately to me, being on injured reserve is not something I’m new to,” Long said. “Being on it previous years, it gave me an understanding of how lonely it can be and how tough it can be as a football player,” he said. “When you’re healthy in the NFL, there’s not much better. And when you’re not healthy, there’s not much worse.”
And when Long was at his best, few in the NFL were better. But he told NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport a few weeks ago that retiring was “the easiest decision of my life, because I didn’t recognize the player I saw on film.”
Long, a prolific figure on social media, has posted photos of his various adventures in recent weeks, from tropical vacations to motor racing. It’s clear he’s dropped a ton of weight but otherwise the vibrant ex-Bear couldn’t be more recognizable.
“I could take a year off, get healthy and go back into football, but I have no intention of doing that,” he said. “It’s time to live life. It’s like I just got out of college and I got to figure out what the heck to do with my life.”
This article originally ran on profootballweekly.com.