Unsigned Roquan Smith among issues facing Bears as camp ends

Unsigned Roquan Smith among issues facing Bears as camp ends
Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy stands on the sideline during the second half of the team's NFL preseason football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) — It has become a familiar refrain for Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy.

Nagy has often repeated the words “nothing new” over the past 3½ weeks regarding contract talks with first-round draft pick Roquan Smith, and the situation remains status quo.

Nagy’s first training camp with the Bears concluded Sunday, and it remains uncertain when defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can plug the former Georgia linebacker into the lineup.

And that’s not the Bears’ only problem as they head into a week of practices in Denver before playing the Broncos on Saturday in their second preseason game.

Asked Sunday if missing all of camp would limit Smith’s ability to be defensive field general on opening day, Nagy did not mince words.

“I think it does,” Nagy said. “You’re playing at that position and there are a lot of calls that go on, very similar to a quarterback, there’s a lot going on. But I have full confidence in Vic and his staff that when he does get here, they’ll get him up to speed and whenever that is, we’ll see.

“But again, that’s why we all get paid as coaches is to try to help our players out as much as possible and that’s kind of where we’re at.”

Neither the Bears nor Smith’s agents have openly discussed the reason for the standoff.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the sticking point in talks is the Bears’ refusal to give up the right to reclaim some of Smith’s guaranteed bonus if he is suspended for an on-field rules violation outside the parameters of a football play.

Smith is the only unsigned player in the 2018 NFL draft class. The Bears haven’t had Smith around since their June minicamp.

“I think he knows that he’s to be in shape,” Nagy said. “I think he knows that.”

The Bears have two veteran inside linebackers on the field in Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski, so they’re not short on experience.

Players say they’ve avoided turning the holdout into a distraction.

“It’s pretty easy,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “I mean, we can’t make him appear out of nowhere. You play with what you got and go forward.”

Their other big problem revolves around the offense.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled in the new offense with interceptions in practice, then went 2 for 4 for 4 yards in his first effort against Cincinnati in a 30-27 loss Thursday night.

“It’s not rocket science to know that we need to be better in that,” Nagy said. “It’s my job to make sure am I calling the right plays. It’s their job to make sure they execute when they get those plays to come in.”

Wide receiver Allen Robinson and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel did not play Thursday. Also absent was starting running back Jordan Howard.

Robinson called camp a successful indoctrination to a complicated attack.

“I think it was really big for us, for us to stay around close to each other, to have those conversations not only in the film room, but outside, just talking about different looks and seeing different things,” Robinson said. “I think it was very beneficial for us, as well as going against the defense.

“We have a top-10 defense in this league and they give us a lot of different looks and they challenge us each and every day, presnap and post-snap.”

The other issue the Bears are facing coming out of camp is that injuries have begun piling up.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara is out with a groin injury and tight end Dion Sims is out with a concussion. Gabriel has a foot injury and has been out a week.

Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch was counted on to be a starter after leaving San Francisco in free agency but hasn’t participated in a single practice due to a hamstring injury.

“We’re not concerned,” Nagy said. “He’s OK with where he’s at. It has drawn out a little bit. There were a few setbacks there a little bit ago, but he’s back on track and he’ll be ready to go.”


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