Bears starting RG Kyle Long spoke for the first time publicly Tuesday since being ejected from last week's team scrimmage for fighting with undrafted rookie DE Jalen Dalton. The Bears' longest-tenured homegrown player called his actions — including removing Dalton's helmet, swinging, and connecting, prior to launching it in the air — "obviously unacceptable" and "absolutely so far over the line that it was on me to handle that internally and speak to the people that I needed to speak to."
Long, who was held back by coach Matt Nagy last weekend from the Bears' preseason visit to the New York Giants, praised his teammates for being receptive to his apology and said they echoed one of Nagy's favorite sayings: "don't talk about it; be about it."
“They’ve done a really good job of allowing me to handle it internally," Long said. "It’s been good. The feedback has mostly been just show us. That’s what I intend to do.”
Although he has been with the Bears longer than any of his teammates except S Sherrick McManis, and was in the midst of perhaps his best camp ever after three consecutive seasons cut short by injuries requiring surgery, Long said he understands that the incident — which he called a "momentary lapse of judgment," followed by "immediate regret" — might have caused fans to cringe and some of his teammates to question his character.
"I cost myself a lot of personal equity," he said. "People don’t like to see stuff like that. It does not feel good to be the one that’s responsible for it. I’m trying to take ownership of it and move forward, and all I can do today is show up and be the man that I know that I am and stack those days together."
Nagy indicated earlier Tuesday that the incident, which occurred three days after Long was involved in a verbal altercation with Pro Bowl DE Akiem Hicks, was surprising because it interrupted what had been such a strong summer for the seven-year vet. Long had been roundly praised by his coaches and teammates for his veteran leadership and the impact his sheer daily practice presence after recent offseasons spent mostly rehabbing had made on a unit that returns all five starters but with an interior flip-flop between new C James Daniels and new LG Cody Whitehair.
“Surprised in the fact that he’s been doing so great. That part, that’s the yes part," Nagy said. "And then no I’m not surprised because those guys are in the trenches every day banging and sometimes for certain reasons you get triggered and things happen. But that’s where we’ve got to be mentally strong, be mentally mature and get past that part.”
Last Wednesday's skirmish is hardly the first time Long's temper has raged as a Bear. He was ejected within the first couple minutes of a camp practice last summer and had to be held back by brother and former Los Angeles Rams DE Chris Long from stomping an opponent during Kyle's rookie season. Yet it's a fine line between the agression that helps make Long one of the more feared guards in the game and last week's actions, which he retierated went above and beyond.
"I'd say keep it between the whistles and as a rule of thumb, if you're going to use another piece of equipment, don't do that," he said. "I mean, honestly somebody could get hurt. That's why I'm saying it's unfortunate. Can't happen, unacceptable. Got to move forward, [and] have to be able to channel that between the whistles."
Long certainly sounded contrite Tuesday but also seemed determined to prove it to everyone.
"As you guys know, this is a league about action, it’s not a league about talking about it," he said. "The thing I need to continue to do is go out on a day-to-day basis and try to prove to the men in this locker room that don’t know me very well and who have some questions about my character, and just try to move forward and prove to them the man I am on a daily basis.
"It was wrong what I did and in a lapse of judgment, that’s where I ended up, and it reflected poorly on the organization, the city, the offensive line room and that was never my intention. Moving forward I intend to make amends.”