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July 22, 2013

ONLINE ONLY: NFL injury risk has Hall-of-Fame dad concerned for rookie son

(Continued)

In an auditorium, Kyle found a seat and strained to look upward. Above him was a series of blown-up black and white images featuring some of the game's legends. Looming over Kyle, nearly 15 feet tall and larger than life, was a specter of his father, No. 75, sprinting around the edge.

Wearing a Bears T-shirt, Kyle toured the game's history, strolling from exhibit to exhibit and examining relics: old jerseys, Super Bowl rings, Jim Thorpe's jacket, Tom Landry's fedora. Affable, thoughtful and outgoing, Kyle cracked jokes with his teammates and chatted with other museum visitors.

"I want to see the busts," he said to a tour guide. "Where are those?"

"We'll be there shortly," he was told.

"Good," Kyle said. "There's a guy up there that I'd like to check out."

A few minutes later the rookies entered a room filled with bronze heads of the game's greatest players. Kyle looked his father's bust up and down: rock solid chin, chiseled scowl and a bronzed flattop. He stood quietly for a moment, moved. Impressed.

"These guys put their bodies on the line for the game," he said. "I know first-hand that my Dad did that. I'd like to one day be able to possibly walk through here and see my face, maybe see my older brother's face."

For better or worse, the NFL is the Longs' family business. On Sept. 5 when the regular season opens, every single member of the clan will be engaged in the league in some way. Shortly after Kyle was drafted, the Longs' youngest son entered the league, although to their relief, in a slightly different role. Howie Jr. received an internship in the front office of the Oakland Raiders. He has ambitions of someday becoming a general manager.

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