Bears, Roquan Smith still on good terms despite reported holdout

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No bad blood between Bears, Roquan Smith originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

There is no bad blood between the Bears and Roquan Smith, despite the star linebacker’s decision to hold out, or hold in, or whatever you want to call his decision to come to Halas Hall, but reportedly not participate in practice.

“My feelings for Roquan don’t change at all,” said Ryan Poles. “I love the player and the person and that won’t change… I’m just not gonna talk about contracts and all that. I want to just make sure we addressed it though in terms of my feelings for him, nothing changes.”

The last time we spoke to Roquan Smith, he made it clear that he wanted to remain a Chicago Bear, too. He was confident he would reach a long term agreement with the team. But for now, the two sides have still not been able to come together on a contract extension.

Smith was spotted at Halas Hall on report day. But one day after Ian Rapoport reported that Smith wouldn’t participate in practice, Poles said the team still doesn’t know how much, or how little he will do at training camp.

“I know he checked in and we’re gonna take it from there and gather information and take it one step at a time,” said Poles. “That’s all I can do.”

The problem, according to Rapoport, is that Smith has yet to receive a contract extension that he would “remotely consider.” Poles made it clear he wouldn’t discuss the ongoing contract negotiations, but when asked whether or not Smith represents himself, without using the help of an agent, there was a long pause and some sideways glances before he answered.

“You’ll have to 一 yeah, I’m not gonna talk about that.”

Nor would he say whether Smith potentially representing himself complicates negotiations.

“If a player didn’t have an agent, it would be a different situation than if they did.”

Meanwhile on the football field, Matt Eberflus now needs to prepare for the possibility that his defense will have to practice without its best player.

“I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but really, you want to just get the max out of them,” said Eberflus. “Whatever they can do, they can do. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“It’s going to be a situation where we are going to make the best of it, and if it’s opportunity for other people– in this league, you’ve got to adjust, adapt and overcome. That’s what we are going to do.”

The optimism isn’t surprising from a first-year head coach still in the middle of installing a new program, and a new defense. It’s true that other players will get the opportunity to show what they can do without Smith participating, and that will help in some respects. But Jaylon Johnson was a little more emphatic when relaying what the Bears would miss without Smith out at practice.

“S***, our leader. I mean we all know who Roquan is and what he means to this team. But at the end of the day somebody has to fill that gap. It's not different to me if he was injured or if he was missing a few weeks. During the game somebody has to step up, somebody has to fill that leadership role, somebody has to call the defense, somebody has to do it. I mean at the end of the day it's an early preparation of what could happen during the season. Somebody has to step up.”

Regardless of how the Bears and Smith feel about each other, and what opportunity his absence could open up for other players, everyone would benefit from an expeditious resolution to the hold out (or hold in, or whatever). Each year, average values on the top contracts in the league go up, so the Bears will likely save money by extending Smith now, rather than waiting. Obviously Smith benefits by getting financial security, but getting a deal done and getting back on the field to continue building a rapport with Nick Morrow and his other new teammates. If both sides truly want to get a deal done as much as they say they do, then they’ll need to find a way to come together.

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