MIAMI - Bears fans were blindsided a few weeks ago, when Kyle Long decided to step away from football at the age of 31.
Nearly everyone was caught off guard, except maybe his dad - Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long.
"He'd been through so much physically. The ankle was brutal. The ankle was really a three-year, two and a half year injury. His ankle actually felt good this year."
But the rest of Kyle's body was still reeling. One injury in particular sent shockwaves through his system.
"I remember the game. It was the Green Bay game up in Green Bay. He blew his neck out and continued to play. Then the shoulder went and he continued to play. Then the elbow was there and he continued to play. You start saying to yourself, 'Ok. What fire do we put out now?" We decided rather than do two separate surgeries, let's do the shoulder and the elbow simultaneously out in LA."
The surge of surgeries took its toll on Kyle and in turn Howie.
"Just following him around the hotel that night, throwing up 30-35 times. It was a brutal night. To watch your kid go through that is a challenge. Then the neck fusion - four and a half hour surgery, major deal. A lot of loose fragments lodged in the spine. More than people know. He was playing with that for a long time."
Eventually, the risk started to outweigh the reward.
"The neck factors into everything. That's the scary thing. That's the thing you always think of as a player. 'They can fix my fingers. They can fix my knee. They can fix my shoulder. If something goes south with your neck, scary.' I think it got to the point where, he was looking at himself on film and not seeing the guy he wanted to be."
Far from the three-time Pro Bowler with nothing but promise when he entered the league.
"One thing we don't handle well as a family is being average, internally - yourself. It was kind of like my decision. I was held together with duct tape and glue. I was 34 years old. I'd had, at that time 11 surgeries. I'd been down all the roads Kyle is going down now. I know where all the potholes are. I know where the accidents are. I know which exits to get off on. I think it was just time."