The three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman dressed for last Sunday’s 23-16 loss to Green Bay but played just one snap on special teams.
Long, who declined to speak to reporters every day last week, was listed as having limited participation in practice with a finger injury on Chicago’s official injury report leading up to the Packers game.
While NFL offensive linemen can play with broken fingers, Long’s case is different.
Remember, Long’s labrum in his left shoulder is still torn. The finger injury is on his left hand. There’s a real possibility that Long is struggling to use his left arm, and an offensive lineman --- no matter how tough – cannot play with one arm.
Long’s surgically repaired ankle probably also remains a source of discomfort.
Add it all up: The Bears have a big decision to make.
Would it be better for Long to simply shut it down for 2017 and elect to have surgery? Regardless of the severity of the finger injury, Long’s labrum has to be repaired at some point.
“I think time will tell,” Bears coach John Fox said on Monday when asked whether Long’s injury can improve without surgery.
“I think last week I didn’t feel like he was quite able to practice in a full speed to be prepared. He’s physically capable of being active. But again, this is a game where you have to practice to get ready for a game in a lot of cases. So he was active, so he was healthy enough, but I’m not sure he was going to be healthy enough to take 70 snaps in a game.”
But if Long can’t play... he can’t play.
No one associated with the Bears is eager to concede the season, but Long’s health beyond 2017 is important.
Keep in mind that Long’s 2018 base salary ($2,248,158) and roster bonus ($5 million) are already guaranteed against injury next year, but become fully guaranteed on the third day of the league year.
Long’s extension -- agreed to last summer -- contained a $7.5 million signing bonus.
Long isn’t going anywhere, nor should he.
Does it make sense to have Long delay surgery -- if that’s even an option -- and spend another offseason rehabbing from injuries? Or is it smarter to put Long on injured reserve, fix the problems, and try again next year?
The Bears have a lot to contemplate when it comes to their highest-paid offensive lineman.