Chicago Bears players reported to training camp in Bourbonnais on Thursday, but one key member was missing.
First-round pick, Roquan Smith, has not reported due to not having a contract and will begin a holdout. Smith’s absence was a hot topic when Bears general Ryan Pace and new head coach Matt Nagy met the media on Thursday.
One of the first questions asked of the Bears general manager was his thoughts of his rookie linebacker not being with the team at the start of camp. Pace seemed to have an upbeat attitude towards the situation given his response.
“We’re optimistic that he’s here soon,’’ Pace said via Chicago Sun-Times reporter Patrick Finley.
The Bears reported to camp earlier than the majority of the league this year due to their participation in the Hall of Fame Game on August 2nd. The team not only gets a fifth pre-season game, but extended practices which are important for rookies and a new coaching regime. There are a lot of expectations surrounding Smith as he is believed to be a playmaker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense.
Smith is expected to start at the inside linebacker position along side Danny Trevathan and is expected to be a major force in the rushing defense. His speed is key as he has shown a tremendous ability in college to chase down opposing runners. It is imperative for him to be in camp to take as many live reps whether practice or game reps leading up to the season.
The Bears top 2018 draft pick isn’t the only first-round selection still unsigned. Currently, there are still over 10 first-round selections that remain unsigned, including first overall pick, quarterback Baker Mayfield. The difference is that majority of the teams are still a week away from reporting to camp while the Bears hold their first team practice on Friday.
There are many good signs from Pace’s press conference that the two sides are at least talking from what was hinted at by Pace. ‘‘I’m sure he’s dying to be here, knowing him as a player,’’ Pace said.
It seems that there is little concern of this being an extended issue as practices begin this weekend. The results on the practice field will be overlooked,though, the longer Smith holds out. If he misses a day or two its no cause for concern, but if he remains unsigned leading up to the Hall of Fame game it could be a very bad look for both him and the Bears organization.