Kyle Long will return to action Sunday after missing 10 games, between the 2016 and ’17 seasons, with a severe ankle injury. The veteran Bears guard shed some light on why the recovery took so long after the November 2016 setback. Long said (via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune) he “tore everything but his Achilles” during a gruesome sequence in the Bears’ eighth game last season. This included four ankle ligament tears. No broken bones occurred, but this induced the lengthy rehab process. It’s been more than 10 months since the Bears’ three-time Pro Bowl blocker stepped on a field for a game. Long’s father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, said he should have started training camp on the PUP list to prevent from attempting to come back too early.
Here’s the latest from the North divisions as its teams make final preparations for their third regular-season games.
- Kenny Britt‘s Browns tenure has not started off well. The 29-year-old wide receiver has just two receptions for 15 yards, on five targets. Recent practice squad promotion Rashard Higgins more than doubled Britt’s season target figure in Week 2. When the Browns signed Britt to a four-year, $32MM contract in March, an anonymous NFL executive told cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto the deal came with risk because Britt could become an “attitude problem.” Pluto characterizes Britt as having trouble in this department while with the Titans before re-routing his career with the Rams with a 1,000-yard season in 2016. Now paid handsomely by a non-contending team, Britt has an uphill battle to prove he’s worth the investment. The bulk of Britt’s guaranteed money will be paid out this season, but the ninth-year veteran’s 2018 dead-money figure is higher than the cap savings that would come the Browns’ way with a release.
- DeShone Kizer left last weekend’s game due to migraine headaches. Pluto notes the Browns were aware of this trouble, but since the issue never impeded the quarterback during a game at Notre Dame, the Browns didn’t deem it a medical red flag. A waiver claim last year, 2016 fifth-round pick Kevin Hogan came on in relief of Kizer and has usurped Cody Kessler for the backup job.
- Teryl Austin‘s been a frequent visitor for teams seeking head coaching interviews in recent years. He met with the Chargers in January and spoke with the Browns, Dolphins, Giants and Eagles in 2016. The veteran Lions DC has yet to receive a chance to lead a team, and while Austin said last year he felt only two of his 2016 interviews were legitimate, some teams may have had issues with the DC’s ideas for a staff, Kyle Meinke of MLive.come notes. However, Meinke adds Austin has rectified those seemingly minor concerns, and teams “love the way he’s interviewed.” If the Lions turn in a solid defensive performance this season, Meinke envisions the 52-year-old defensive mind landing a coaching gig in 2018.
- When T.J. Watt went down with a groin injury in Week 2, Anthony Chickillo, not James Harrison, replaced the rookie. The Steelers have Harrison his first DNP-CD since 2003, and the 39-year-old linebacker addressed these concerns this week. “Just doing what I’m asked,” Harrison said, via Chris Adamnski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You’re not going to get any other answer than that. So if you have any other questions about playing time, you ask coach T (Mike Tomlin).” Tomlin said Chickillo’s insertion into the game came because he wanted to “leave the hot hands in there.” Harrison started seven games last season and rated as one of Pro Football Focus’ best edge defenders. Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said earlier this year he plans to use Harrison as a relief pitcher of sorts despite the two-year deal the outside ‘backer signed in March. The franchise is following through with that plan so far.