CHICAGO – Kyle Long was walking through the Bears' locker room on his first day on the job Friday when he bumped into new teammate Brandon Marshall.
“He said, ‘You’re big-leaguing me already?’ ” Long said with a grin.
“I said, ‘Did I miss something?’
“He said, ‘I texted you last night,’ ” said Long, who mistakenly overlooked the message among a flood of responses on his phone. “I felt bad because here’s Brandon Marshall, who is bigger than me. He’s giving me [grief] and it’s only Day One.”
The Bears hope Marshall’s good-natured ribbing brought the first of many smiles for the rookie offensive lineman at Halas Hall. Long toured the practice facility and met with general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman and others a day after the Bears selected him with the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft.
Long also received a congratulatory text message from Jay Cutler after the draft. It will be his job to protect Cutler, who has absorbed 148 sacks in four seasons with the Bears.
Whether Long does that as a guard or a tackle is irrelevant to him.
“I mean, I’m an offensive lineman," said Long, who will wear No. 75 for the Bears. “The beauty of that position is that the positions aren’t that much different. I just want to play. I don’t care where it is.”
Proud papa: Howie and Diane Long watched from the back of the auditorium at Halas Hall as Kyle took part in his introductory news conference with the Bears.
From an early age, Howie said, it was apparent that Kyle was a star athlete.
“I’ve been saying this to his mom since he was 4 years old: He’s kind of a freak of nature, physically,” said Howie Long, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. “God just puts the hand on some people, puts the hand on their shoulder and says, ‘You’re gifted. Now what are you going to do with it?’ And that’s Kyle.
“When you throw 95 [mph] in high school and you’re 295 [pounds] in high school and you run a 4.8 [40-yard dash] and you can jump out of the building, you can tomahawk dunk a basketball and all of those things, the question then becomes, what direction do you go in and how important is it to you?
“It became obvious to us that over the last few years, it was very important for him.”
Howie Long, who played for the Raiders throughout his career, described the Bears as a “crown jewel” franchise. Without naming teams, he hinted that his son would have been drafted later in the first round if the Bears had not select him at No. 20 overall.
Grand finale: Emery and the Bears will wrap up the draft starting at 11 a.m. Saturday with picks slated for the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. Barring a trade, the Bears will not have a selection in the seventh round because of a previous deal with Tampa Bay.
Last season, Emery selected three players on the third and final day of the draft: tight end Evan Rodriguez (Round 4), cornerback Isaiah Frey (Round 6) and cornerback Greg McCoy (Round 7). Rodriguez was the only member of that group to make the Bears’ 53-man roster.
Several other recent mid- to late-round picks went on to enjoy good careers for the Bears, including Corey Wootton (Round 4, 2010), Henry Melton (Round 4, 2009), Johnny Knox (Round 5, 2009) and Chris Harris (Round 6, 2005).