Healthy Roquan Smith doesn't practice; Bears taking hold-in 'day-by-day'

·4 min read

Healthy Roquan doesn't practice; Bears taking hold-in 'day-by-day' originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST – The Bears sent a message to Roquan Smith by activating the star linebacker off the PUP list Wednesday, one day after the 25-year-old requested a trade amid failing contract extension negotiations.

We can play hardball if you want.

By deeming Smith healthy to practice, the Bears have the option to fine him for not participating in practice or games.

On Thursday, Smith called their bluff. He showed up to practice in shorts and a hat but didn't practice despite being deemed healthy.

"Roquan Smith came off the PUP. He was cleared by our medical staff as healthy. He did not practice," head coach Matt Eberflus said Thursday after practice. "And the reason why for that is, you'll have to ask him. We expect all of our healthy players to practice, and that was his decision. Like I said, you have to ask him. I have not talked to him about it."

The Bears didn't make Smith available for the media.

This is an early test for Eberflus, a first-time head coach. He has preached about a standard all offseason, and now, his best player is refusing to practice without a new contract despite being healthy. Eberflus is disappointed that Smith isn't practicing but intends to focus on coaching available players while the front office deals with the disgruntled linebacker.

"I just think that you go about your business," Eberflus said when asked how he will deal with the situation. "You treat everybody with respect. You coach on the grass what we're expecting of the guys in the meetings and on the grass. And you look at execution. For me, it's about being respectful to everybody in the building.

"Do I certainly know what Roquan's going through? I don't know. I'm not in his chair. I don't know that. You never put yourself in another man's shoes. His perspective may be something different. That's where he is. I'm going to be respectful of that."
 
Since Smith is healthy, any absence could be deemed unexcused by the team, subjecting him to fines. Eberflus said the Bears would cross that bridge when they come to it.
 
Not only is Smith refusing to practice without a new deal, but he is also showing up and standing on the sidelines to observe the practice he's purposefully skipping. Allowing him to do so without consequences would appear to send a poor message to a young team Eberflus wants to buy into his standard.
 
Eberflus was adamant that he isn't saying the Bears won't discipline Smith, just that they haven't got to that point yet.
 
"I'm saying that right now, today, we're saying that he didn't practice," Eberflus said when asked if he was just going to go on business as usual while Smith holds in. "You're going to have to ask him why he didn't practice and then we're going to take it day-by-day, that's what we're saying."
 
The NFL CBA is opaque when it comes to hold-ins.

Smith can be fined $40K per missed practice if he is not physically present and $572K per missed preseason game. It's unclear what the fine would be for a player who is physically in attendance but unwilling to practice. BSince Smith is not physically absent, it will be up to the Bears to decide if they want to fine him or not. A physical absence would trigger an NFL-mandated fine, per the CBA.

The 49ers, Seahawks, and Steelers chose not to fine Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and Diontae Johnson during their respective hold-ins.

Derwin James currently is a hold-in at Chargers camp.

Overall, it's unclear how much the Bears can fine Smith and if those numbers will be the same as if he wasn't physically present.

The Bears hold all the leverage in this situation. They can fine Smith for missed practices and games and have him under contract this season. Smith can't sit out the season, or his contract toll will freeze, putting off free agency for another season.

On Tuesday, Smith requested a trade from the Bears, citing a contract extension offer that he viewed as disrespectful. General manager Ryan Poles told the media his intention is still to extend Smith and that he believed the offer "showed respect" to Smith for what he has done and what the Bears believe he can do.

Smith's public trade request was the most dramatic option available. The Bears countered by removing him from the PUP list, clearing him to practice, and putting financial discipline back into play.

With Smith being openly defiant Thursday, the Bears almost have no choice but to fine him. To do nothing after taking him off the PUP list would signal to everyone that you're willing to be steamrolled.

Eberflus said the Bears would deal with disciplining Smith "when the time comes." It feels like that time is here.

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