On Wednesday, word came that the Kansas City Chiefs had signed former Chicago Bears offensive guard Kyle Long — son of former Las Vegas Raiders Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long — and himself a three-time Pro Bowl player during his seven-year Bears career.
Speaking to the Kansas City press for the first time on Thursday, Long became just the most recent Chiefs player to misidentify the team’s owner.
“I want to thank everybody at the Chiefs,” he started. “The Clark family...”
But then he caught himself.
“Clark Hunt and the Hunt family,” he continued, chuckling. “Andy Reid, Andy Heck for allowing me the opportunity; Brett Veach, for bringing me in here.”
But we should excuse his momentary gaffe, because it was obvious in almost every question he answered that despite making the Raiders the initial stop in his very first foray into NFL free agency — perhaps on the advice of his famous father — he had very much liked the idea of playing for the Chiefs.
“I had the opportunity to play for Matt Nagy in Chicago,” he explained, “and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him [and] the energy he brought. It’s no secret that he adopted a lot of his thought processes from Andy Reid and the staff here. And obviously the roster.”
Oh, yes. The roster.
“The opportunities to win football games and do special things in this league [is] something I’ve never done in my career,” Long noted. “And I feel like I could fit. I know I can fit here — and I’m looking forward to proving that.”
If there had been any doubt lingering in his mind, it apparently disappeared once he was at One Arrowhead Drive.
“It feels awkward landing in a city that you don’t consider home,” he recalled of his arrival. “But when you walk into this building here in Kansas City, it becomes apparent that things are different here. Sitting in Coach Reid’s office, I just knew that this is where I wanted to be.”
Long said that it was a reminder why he had wanted to make Kansas City one of his first visits — even though he acknowledged that in the home in which he grew up, “Chiefs” was a dirty word.
“I know there’s a litany of players jumping at this opportunity to come into a building like this — a culture like this.”
But it’s taken him a lot of work to get to this point. After playing in just 30 games during his last four seasons with the Bears — in which he dealt with multiple injuries — Long retired after the 2019 season.
“I knew right away when I was let go in Chicago that I would be back,” he said, “and I needed to do everything in my power to get myself back to where I knew I could come in and play the level of football that I know I can play.”
Long said that the process began with a Bears great who retired in 2012 — the year before he was drafted with the 20th overall pick of 2013.
“I immediately got with Olin Kreutz — a former Bears legend, a center, a great man — and I started training with him. I got down to about 270 pounds — and he looked at me with that look, like ‘You want to play football? You’re 270.’ He said, ‘Don’t come back in here looking to train for football unless you’re 300 pounds.’
“So I’ve been out in Scottsdale, Arizona — been eating a lot, training every day, doing a lot of things to build up my lower half. I understand what it takes to play in this game and have success — and not relative success. I know what it takes to be dominant in this game.”
Long said that the process would be familiar to fans of a certain movie franchise.
“I’ve been Rocky-IV-ing it, man — just locking myself in that cabin and getting after it.”
But he also said that during his year off, he made sure to do things he’d never had time to do while in the first phase of his NFL career: spending time with his fiancee and his nephews — and even playing some golf to relax.
“It was a tremendous opportunity for me to regain physical, mental and emotional composure — to get my feet back under me.”
Now that he has done so, Long seems ready — and eager — to get back to the sport he loves.
“Football is a lot of fun to me; I’ve had fun even when I’ve had some struggles in the past,” he said. “But the opportunity to come here — and win? It’s fun. I want to be a part of that. You can’t lose sight of the fact that this is a game — a great game — that we get to play. And I think you guys will find out very quickly that I enjoy playing this game.”
And it doesn’t matter to him where he ends up playing.
“I’m comfortable with anywhere on the offensive line,” he said. “One thing I can tell you with conviction is that I’ve never played center. I’m left-handed — I don’t know many left-handed centers — but I’m open to learning anything. I’ve yet to meet all the guys in the offensive line room, but I’m so looking forward to doing that and finding my place in there.
“I just want to find a way to bring an edge every day — [to] compete — and win some football games.”