After four seasons of quite literally butting heads, defensive end Akiem Hicks and offensive lineman Kyle Long recently shared details of their intense relationship while they played together with the Chicago Bears.
The Athletic’s Dan Pompei penned an incredibly candid and powerful piece about Long’s seven-year career, sharing eye-opening details about the 16 scars Long carries after landing on the injured reserve list four years straight. Ever-the-warrior in his tenure in Chicago, Long retired this offseason, and has since gotten into the best shape he has been in since high school. When he talked to Pompei about life after football, he was refreshingly honest, including the details he shared about his relationship with Hicks — whom Pompei also spoke to.
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Long & Hicks Battled ‘Every Day’
Long put it bluntly when describing his interactions with Hicks in practice: “It was a battle every day.” Hicks agrees. “Intense,” is the word Hicks used to describe his day-to-day practice skirmishes within Long.
Pompei noted that while Hicks’ arrival in 2016 was challenging and a source of stress for Long, the two teammates also were competitors of the highest quality, and they developed a mutual respect few will ever understand. After Long injured himself in the second game of the 2019 season, for example, Hicks laid off him in subsequent weeks during practice because he could see something was off. Long’s season was over a few weeks later.
Their passion and competitiveness resulted in multiple alterations in practice over the years, however. Hicks and Long engaged in a shoving match during training camp in 2019, and they also had a minor scuffle the year prior in 2018, also during training camp. “I think the Akiem-and-I thing, that’s the nature of two giants getting frustrated with each other over the course of time … We’re like siblings,” Long said at the time. “We bicker, we push each other around and most of the time mom or dad has to say ‘Hey! That’s your brother! Be nice–go back to the huddle,'” he said after their shoving match last fall.
Hicks on Long: ‘One of the Best I’ve Ever Competed Against’
“There aren’t many players that can play offensive line with that type of raw aggression that he does,” Hicks said about Long, before dropping the ultimate of compliments on his former teammate: “I felt like I was playing a defensive lineman.”
Hicks says the way Long handled himself throughout his seven-year career is also something to be admired. “One of the things that I always admired about Kyle was that he respected his family history all while cementing himself as one of the best linemen in the league,” Hicks says. “To emerge from his father’s shadow as his own man is something that should be revered. Not everyone is able to overcome their father’s legacy. I’ve seen it play out first-hand. As far as competition, his strength and athleticism were obvious on the field, but his passion to me is what made him. His fierceness and inability to quit are what make him one of those who could play in any era. … Ultimately, I believe Kyle to be one of the best offensive linemen I’ve ever competed against.”
The feeling is mutual. According to Pompei, one of the things Long already misses most about the game is “combating Hicks in practice, trying to defeat one another with passion and respect.”
Passion is something Long brought with him to every game, and it’s something the Bears and their offense are going to miss. Clearly, it’s something No. 96 is going to miss, as well.