By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter
Kyle Long said off-the-field issues are far in his past and the Chicago Bears did not seemed concerned about the character of the guard they selected with the 20th overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long at the NFL combine in February. (USA Today Sports Photo)
Long was arrested on a DUI charge in Charlottesville, Va., in January 2009 and spent a brief time in a rehab program after bouncing out of Florida State, where he had gone to play baseball.
It was a topic the Bears and other NFL teams explored in the pre-draft process.“I was a young kid and I was dealing with some stuff off the field that I had to work through,” Long said after he was selected. “I am past it now. I’m four years, four-and-a-half years removed from the smoking issues. I really feel like my best ball and all of that is ahead of me. I am really excited to be a part of the Bears organization. I am grateful for them giving me an opportunity.“The Bears were very straightforward. They liked what they saw in me as a football player and nothing from what they had heard led them to believe anything different in regards to off the field. I feel like I am a pretty standup guy. I am an honest guy. I am very forthright. I am very blunt. We had a great meeting and I was able to answer some of the questions that they had. It was a good meeting overall.”
General manager Phil Emery said he would be more concerned about Long’s lack of major college experience – he played in only 11 games at Oregon – if it wasn’t for his strong character.
“I am not concerned,” Emery said. “All of us have fallen in life at one point or another and the important thing is do we get up and do we move forward? Do we try to get ourselves better and not only get ourselves better but get those around us better. That is what this young man has done.
“He was a team leader at Oregon. He was there one fall and they petitioned to bring him back because of his leadership. They felt that he was going to be the guy on the team to lead this team. So, that is why the coaches requested to get another year. He didn’t get it. So he came out in the draft.”