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The Bears on Monday placed offensive guard Kyle Long on Injured Reserve for a fourth straight season.

It must feel like the movie Groundhog Day for Long, the Bears organization and all of Bears Nation.

Selected with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Long has been plagued by injuries for half his career. He has played in 16 games just twice in 7 years, and has missed more than half the season in three of the past four years.

Is this the end?

If I were a betting man, I’d say Long has played his last game with the Bears. The Bears got Long to accept a pay cut back in February. The writing was on the wall then that Long’s lack of availability was a big concern for the team.

With certain players coming up for contract extensions in the next two offseasons, the Bears can’t afford to pay top dollar for a player who is hurt more often than not.

General Manager Ryan Pace seems to have hit on two offensive linemen in James Daniels and Cody Whitehair in recent drafts. But he’s going to have to do more along the line next year and beyond if the Bears want to improve a unit that is struggling to open holes this season.

A struggling Long is not better than a healthy alternative

Say what you want about the former Pro Bowl guard. But a hip injury has hobbled Long all season. He just hasn’t looked like the same player he once was, and the results on the field showed.

The Bears have one of the worst run games in the league this year. And although that’s not all Long’s fault, he’s been one big reason why they’ve struggled.

Replacing Long will not be an easy task long term — pardon the pun. But in the interim, a healthy body might actually immediately improve the team’s outlook.

Veteran guard Ted Larsen will get the first crack at replacing Long in the starting lineup, but a knee injury has hampered him as well. If he can’t return healthy soon, Rashaad Coward could get the first nod. The Bears also have rookie Alex Bars on the practice squad. Bars, if you recall, recently declined the opportunity to sign onto the New England Patriots’ active roster.

The Bears coaching staff had the bye week to try to figure out ways to improve the offense. Just having a younger, healthy body could pay dividends right away, particularly in the run game.

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