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No Roquan Smith at Bears camp, but Ryan Pace ‘optimistic’ LB will arrive soon

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith talks in June. (AP)

BOURBONNAIS — Bears general manager Ryan Pace tried to downplay the absence of first-round draft pick Roquan Smith on Thursday, calling contract impasses such as the one the sides are going through ‘‘rather common and somewhat predictable’’ around the league. He said he wasn’t surprised Smith wasn’t on the Olivet Nazarene University campus.

Still, Smith’s absence was the lone blemish on the cheeriest training-camp move-in day in years. The Bears and their prized inside linebacker have been unable to reach an agreement on his rookie contract. Barring a change, Smith will miss the Bears’ first practice, which is closed to the public, on Friday.

‘‘We’re optimistic that he’s here soon,’’ Pace said.

Pace said he senses Smith feels the same way.

‘‘I’m sure he’s dying to be here, knowing him as a player,’’ Pace said.

It’s not that simple, though. While the collective-bargaining agreement leaves little room for financial negotiation — Smith’s four-year contract is expected to be worth about $18.5 million, with a signing bonus near $11.5 million — it does allow for teams and agents to dicker about details. Cash-flow distribution of a signing bonus and offset language, which details how much money the Bears would owe Smith if they cut him and he went elsewhere, are common sticking points.

Leaguewide precedent doesn’t portend a quick deal. Seven of the top nine players drafted have yet to sign their contracts. The Bears, though, reported to training camp before 30 of the other 31 teams on account of their Hall of Fame Game appearance Aug. 2.


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‘‘Ideally, yeah, we want him here,’’ Pace said. ‘‘[Coach] Matt [Nagy] touched on the continuity we’re building right now and getting away for camp and the benefits of that. But I think we also understand that this happens. This isn’t necessarily abnormal around the league. It’s happening. It is sometimes part of the process.’’

The Bears didn’t sign 2017 first-round pick Mitch Trubisky until exactly a year ago Thursday. They know they have plenty of time before the season begins, though Pace declined to say whether there was a date he thought Smith absolutely needed to be on the field.

Pace said the Bears have ‘‘got great relationships’’ with Smith’s agents at CAA. The same firm represented Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who held out for 31 days two years ago, a rookie record under the current CBA.

Lineman Akiem Hicks, one of the Bears’ defensive leaders, didn’t seem concerned about Smith’s timeline.

‘‘I’ve got to tell you, I’m not nervous,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I think that both sides want to get things figured out, and hopefully it gets done soon. . . .

‘‘That’s a business matter. I couldn’t even imagine having to deal with stuff like that, especially coming into the league. As long as that gets figured out, then we’ll be happy to get him back out there on the field with us and doing what we’ve got to do.’’

Smith was the only one of the Bears’ seven draft picks who didn’t sign on the eve of the team’s rookie minicamp. Still, he participated in offseason activities, impressing the Bears with his leadership and athleticism.

Pace said Smith was everything the Bears thought he would be.

‘‘Obviously, he’s an extremely talented player,’’ Pace said. ‘‘But all the intangibles that he brings are also off the charts. So when we talk about identifying that guy that can potentially be that bell cow on defense, he has those type of traits.’’

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