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Chicago Bears’ Pro Bowl OG Long returns to practice

December 23, 2018

OG Kyle Long practiced Friday for the first time since he was placed on injured reserve after he suffered a right foot injury in Week Eight, the 24-10 victory over the Jets on Oct. 28.

The earliest the Bears could activate Long from I.R. is before the regular-season finale in Minnesota against the Vikings on Dec. 30, which is unlikely. There’s a chance that Long, a three-time Pro Bowl player, could be available for the playoffs.

“I’ve never had a chance to play in the playoffs,” said Long, who was limited at the practice inside the Walter Payton Center. “There’s obviously no timeline, so I’m just trying to progress every day and make strides. It felt good to be in a helmet and running around. I don’t feel like a ghost in the building, which is nice.”

This is the third straight season that Long has missed at least six games because of injury. A fractured ankle ended his 2016 season and required surgery that kept him sidelined the first two games in 2017. That season ended a month early because of a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. Long also had surgeries last offseason for neck and elbow injuries.

Coach Matt Nagy said conditioning and communication would be key as Long’s recovery is evaluated.

“We’ll just kind of monitor where he’s at as we go each day, but it was good to see him out there,” Nagy said. “When you’re out like that, it’s how he feels with his football conditioning. We’ll just keep talking to him, and then we’ll see what we think is best as we go. (Friday) was a great first step.”

Long has been replaced at right guard by Bryan Witzmann, who will make his seventh straight start at right guard Sunday against the 49ers. It’s possible the 10-4 Bears might have nothing to play for seeding wise in next week’s season finale against the Vikings in Minnesota. But it might be too optimistic to think Long could get back on the field as a tune-up for the playoffs.

“Obviously in a perfect world you’d want to have as much experience as you can getting back after injury,” Long said. “But it remains to be seen what the process is going to be like the next few weeks.”

In other injury news, Pro Bowl DL Akiem Hicks returned to practice after missing Thursday with an illness and was removed from the injury report.

S Eddie Jackson (sprained ankle) and OLB Aaron Lynch (sprained elbow) did not practice Friday and both were listed as “doubtful.” Neither is expected to play after missing the entire week of practice. DL Bilal Nichols (knee) was limited, as he is during most indoor Friday practices, and is questionable but expected to play.

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