Bears tight-lipped about mysterious deactivation of star linebacker Roquan Smith

Charles RobinsonNFL columnist

In a move that came as a complete surprise Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Bears deactivated star linebacker Roquan Smith less than one hour before Sunday’s 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings for “personal reasons.” What came next raised even more eyebrows: Smith watched from the sideline in a sweatsuit and then left without speaking to reporters, leaving head coach Matt Nagy to refuse further comment on whether Smith might be impacted in future games.

It was an odd development left hanging over a disjointed win for the Bears. While they moved to 3-1 and kept pace with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the NFC North, they also lost starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to a shoulder injury that ultimately put his left (non-throwing) arm in a sling. Even that injury seemed to take a back seat to the mystery of Smith’s deactivation. Particularly in a game where the Bears were facing Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who has been one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players this season.

Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58), pictured in the season opener at home against the Packers, was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday in a victory against the NFC North rival Vikings. (Getty Images)
Bears inside linebacker Roquan Smith (58), pictured in the season opener at home against the Packers, was scratched from the starting lineup on Sunday in a victory against the NFC North rival Vikings. (Getty Images)


It’s rare to see a team sit a seemingly healthy star inside linebacker of Smith’s caliber, let alone against one of the league’s best running backs. It’s even more rare to see a team do it with no explanation from the coach, player or any of the player’s teammates — many of whom also expressed surprise at the deactivation. The oddity was so pronounced and enigmatic that it triggered a run of wild and unsubstantiated speculation on social media, as fans and reporters sought answers for the move.

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Asked for the rationale behind Smith being deactivated on Sunday, Nagy offered simply: “I’m going to leave it as it’s completely a personal matter — and I’m just going to completely leave it at that.”

Pressed on whether Smith’s absence could extend beyond Sunday’s game, Nagy once again declined to answer, repeating that it was a “personal matter” for the linebacker.

The Bears’ next game is Oct. 6 in London against the Oakland Raiders.

The last-minute scratch was announced in the press box as a downgrade for “personal reasons” roughly an hour before kickoff. Smith was then announced as being on the inactive list before kickoff, ultimately watching the game from the Bears’ sideline. Considered one of the NFL’s most promising inside linebackers and a foundational cornerstone of the Bears at only 22 years old, the 2018 first-round pick out of Georgia entered Sunday with 24 tackles in his first three games.


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