It's an archaic rule but one that still stands today: NFL draftees cannot participate in OTAs or veteran minicamp until that year's school year has ended. Such was the case for Chicago Bears first-round offensive lineman Kyle Long, who missed a month of practices this offseason due to Oregon's quarterly class schedule. As a result, Long has been MIA since rookie minicamp back in May.
Yet, due to the technological age in which we live, Long isn't as far behind as he would have been 10 years ago. During his absence, he was able to sit in on positional meetings by using Skype, an Internet phone service where you can face time with anyone across the world. So even though he was stuck in Oregon, Long still received plenty of coaching.
"Whenever they had an OTA [meeting], I would get up in the morning and because I was on the West Coast it would be few hours earlier than what they were waking up here," Long said today at training camp in Bourbonnais. "I would be up and they would just put the cell phone in the front of the meeting and I would be able to see the screen and hear all the coaches' instructions, any questions the players would have."
Long said the time spent in the classroom, even though he was halfway across the country, did him well.
"It was very helpful," he said. "It beat sitting around not getting any instruction. So, any questions I had Coach [Pat] Meyer was there to answer and Coach [Aaron] Kromer was giving me instruction in the meeting so it was a great opportunity for me."
And further helping his development is the zone-blocking system being installed by offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.
"The cool thing about this offense is there are a lot of zone-read principles," said Long. "So, the zone read offense is something that we did at Oregon. The big difference, I was talking about it at ESPN with Waddle and Silvy two days ago, we have a quarterback under center and we huddle here. Those are the two biggest differences. It's still football. I tried to immerse myself in the offense and this will be a better experience to get here with the guys I am playing with."
Long will be given an opportunity to earn a starting guard spot for the Bears once practices begin on Friday. Most likely, he'll challenge James Brown for the right guard gig.
"It's a process. The entire training camp is a process," head coach Marc Trestman said today. "Obviously on Wednesday when we go to practice before we play Cincinnati, we should have our starting [offensive line], and everybody should know who those five guys are going to be. We're going to start with five tomorrow, and then we're going to let competition and training camp take its course. These decisions are usually made on the field by the players, and in time, we'll know."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.