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Veteran Kyle Long’s return from injury fueled by Chiefs’ locker-room culture

The formerly retired offensive lineman has recovered from the injury he suffered in OTAs. He credits his optimism to the people he works with every day.

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Vikings at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s easy to forget that a big part of the offseason excitement for this year’s offensive line came from the signing of former All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Long.

After being retired for a year, Long returned to football, but his comeback was quickly halted by injury during OTA practices in June — a broken bone in his leg forced him to the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for the remainder of the offseason and through the first six weeks of the regular season.

Long originally retired because of the injuries that piled up over his career, so something like this could easily have sent him back off the field. That was never the case for Long.

“I remember a lot of people were like ‘so you’re done now huh?’” Long told reporters during his Friday press conference. “I was like ‘wait, hold on. Absolutely not. I’m going to keep going’ and here we are six months later; I’m back on the field.”

That positivity isn’t just from hindsight. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid recognized his attitude throughout the entire process.

“He’s so positive on things,” Reid noted to reporters on Friday during his press conference. “That type of injury, there’s not a lot of guys that come back in the same year. He’s powered through this thing and put himself in a position to where he can do that — and play. I think it’s a tribute to him and his work ethic... he does everything with such a positive attitude, it’s crazy. He’s so good for that room.”

Long made it clear why he’s been so positive: he knows he is a part of a special organization.

“Being around such a great facility, so many great players and people, and being under the tutelage of so many great coaches here,” Long rambled. “So many future Hall of Famers walking around. If you don’t have a smile and don’t have a positive attitude, you need to get yourself checked. I can assure you the grass is not always greener.”

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Reid also made a point that many would agree with: Long’s veteran, All-Pro presence is naturally a positive thing for the talented youth that take up most of the Chiefs’ starting offensive line. Yet, Long believes the opposite is true.

“I really think it’s about how they have they’ve been able to help me,” Long responded when asked how he’s helped his younger teammates. “You look at the rookies we have in the room and the veterans — and on our roster and our room, we got guys that work hard every day and focus on what they’re supposed to do; you’ve seen it every Sunday. It’s been really fun to be a part of a group like this, and they don’t grow on trees.”

“I’ve been at every meeting since I got injured,” Long continued. “Everything there is to do, I’ve done; I’ve put myself in as good a position as I can put myself in — and leaning on my great teammates and the offensive line room... it’s a special thing. I wish everyone could experience what an offensive line can do to a personality and attitude.”

It’s not just the offensive linemen that fuel Long to come back and contribute to this Super-Bowl hopeful.

“Being around superstars, I see that there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into the success that we all get to experience and see on Sundays,” Long revealed. “It starts at the top with Big Red, and it works its way down through the whole staff. Bringing an energy and practicing with a purpose, the way [Patrick Mahomes] goes about his business, and the way [Travis Kelce] goes about his business, everybody here is about one thing: football. It’s fun, and I love it.”

All that has built up to motivate Long in his latest recovery from injury. It’s allowed him to be on the practice field for weeks now, getting legitimately into the mix, according to coach Reid.

He’s on the 53-man roster now, meaning he could be dressed and active Sunday against the Denver Broncos. It’s not an ideal amount of time to get back into enough shape for a game — but Long understands how to take on that challenge.

“You have to just lean on your preparation,” Long emphasized. “Have the utmost faith in yourself and your teammates. If you’re out on the field, you’ve done the work to get there — and you need to have faith in what you’ve done to prepare.”

Long is just content with his decision to take the journey in injury recovery. It’s obvious he loves the game of football — and he knows if he walked away after his injury in the summer, he’d be watching this team right now thinking one thing.

“I’d be sitting at home right now and saying ‘I’d be healthy by now and could maybe help this team’ — but I don’t have that now, because I’m here and haven’t missed any days. These guys have helped me out through that... they make going to work fun, and playing football is fun as is; it’s a double whammy there.”

Whether Long contributes on the field right away or not, his return is vital to a team not wanting to repeat the result of last year’s injuries along the offensive line in Super Bowl LV.

It gives the team a veteran that will be highly motivated any time his number is called — because he wants to win for this team — a direct result of this organization’s incredible culture.

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