Smith: ‘That’s just the business side of things’
Rookie linebacker says he does not regret contract holdout
Twenty-six days before the Bears take on the Packers in the season opener, Roquan Smith signed his rookie contract and attended his first Bears preseason practice Tuesday at Halas Hall, officially putting an end to a 29-day contract holdout.
Many of his teammates reported to training camp more than four weeks earlier. But if the Bears’ first-round pick was worried about how his absence would affect his ability to be ready for the season, he didn’t let on Tuesday.
“I just kept my faith in my agent and Mr. Pace that they would get everything situated,” he said, referring to Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
In a five-minute session with the media, Smith shed little light on his reasoning for the contract impasse, and at one point answered five straight questions by saying he left the issue to his agent and Pace. However, the inside linebacker said he didn’t regret the holdout that wiped out his rookieyear training camp.
“No, that’s just the business side of things,” Smith said. “It is what it is. And I’m just happy to be here now.”
Smith signed a four-year contract worth about $18 million, with a fifth-year team option. The Bears and Smith’s agents at CAA Football reached a mutual compromise regarding contract language that would allow the Bears to void guarantees should Smith be suspended by the NFL, a source said.
If Smith is suspended three or more games for a football play, his guarantees can be voided. They also can be voided if he is suspended two games for actions on the field outside of a football play if he is defending himself or a teammate or one game if he is deemed the aggressor of actions outside of a football play. Pro Football Talk first reported the parameters of the compromise.
The Bears declined a request to make Pace available for comment Tuesday, and Bears coach Matt Nagy said he didn’t get into the holdout with Smith when he arrived.
He welcomed him and asked, “Are you ready to play some ball?” And Smith said, “Yeah.”
“It was really simple,” Nagy said. “Why harp on what just happened? Let’s go. You’re here. Our team’s here. That’s all that matters. Put it to the side and let’s go play football.”
Smith ran through inside linebackers group work, did team drills mostly with the secondstring defense and chatted with teammates such as Danny Trevathan and John Timu on the sideline during a light, nonpadded workout that lasted about an hour and a half. Then he got on a plane headed to Denver with his team for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday with the Broncos.
Nagy said it was too soon to tell the type of shape Smith is in after the short practice and said he wasn’t yet sure if Smith would play in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Broncos.
Smith, who played in college at Georgia, trained in Athens, Ga., during his time away from the team and said he “would like to think” he’s in good football shape.
“I have confidence in the coaches and the athletic training staff and myself, we’ll take the proper steps for me to come back,” he said.
Nagy said he believes getting Smith ready for the opener is a realistic goal.
A major concern for the Bears is helping Smith to avoid injury as he ramps up activity. Nagy said the Bears will be mindful of making sure Smith doesn’t overdo it physically in an effort to catch up.
“From the time that we got to know Roquan in OTAs, we understand that he’s a very driven individual, both on and off the field, and I know he’s going to do everything he possibly can to catch up,” Nagy said. “Now he’s got to do it, so to be able to get out here in Denver and have some good practices, it’s a great time for him. It’s good for him to get back in shape and take some hits.”
Smith said he texted with teammates, studied his playbook and watched film in an effort to stay up to speed mentally. Nagy said the Bears will not hold back on the information they give Smith as he catches up because they want to “test the waters a little bit and see what he can and can’t do.”
If Smith isn’t ready to go Saturday, Bears fans’ first glimpse of him might be the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the Chiefs at Soldier Field.