“Some Chicagoans are probably happy to hear I’m finally stepping away and getting my body right,” Long wrote on Twitter. “Some Chicagoans may be sad to hear this. Either way [you] feel about it, I want [you] to know how lucky I am to have spent time in your city. I became a man while playing in Chicago. Thank you.”
He clarified the post by exclaiming he “decided to retire a bear.”
Long, 31, made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons with the Bears after being selected 20th overall in the 2013 draft out of Oregon. Years later, he was considered one of the best players from a historically weak draft.
The former guard dealt with numerous injuries over the past three years, however, beginning with a serious ankle injury that consisted of ligament damage, which cost him the final eight games of the 2016 season. He started just 29 of the possible 64 games the last four seasons, according to NFL.com and Pro Football Reference.
There were hints of his retirement following the evasive nature of General Manager Ryan Pace’s season-ending press conference on Tuesday, although now it appears to be a formality.
“We think the world of him,” Pace said. “It’s unfortunate, he’s had a handful of injuries. He’s tried to battle through all of them. Kyle does have an option in his contract that we got to look at. That will be one of the decisions, one of the many decision, we have to make on him. But I feel bad for all the injuries he’s tried to overcome. That was a decision we made at the time. Then we’ll have to make another decision this off-season with his option.”
Former teammates, friends, family, and players around the league showed their appreciation on social media for the long time “Windy City” pro.
When asked what Long wants for his next chapter, the former guard wrote that he wants to “participate and complete” the Mint 400, an annual desert off-road race that takes place in Las Vegas. The race was featured in Hunter S. Thompson’s novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the subsequent 1998 movie starring Johnny Depp.
The Bears can save $6 million against the 2020 salary cap by not picking up his option by March 18, according to SI.com. Long took a massive pay cut last offseason and had one year left on his deal.