Dave Wannstedt: Bears rookie Roquan Smith’s holdout ‘pretty selfish’

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Dave Wannstedt (center) with rookie running back Curtis Enis (39) in the 1998 season opener against the Jaguars. The Bears lost 24-23 on a last-minute Jaguars touchdown. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

BOURBONNAIS — Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, who knows what it’s like to be burned by a rookie holdout, had harsh words for absent rookie linebacker Roquan Smith and his agent Friday, calling the holdout ‘‘pretty selfish’’ and detrimental to both sides.

‘‘It really doesn’t make much sense,’’ Wannstedt, now an analyst for Fox Sports and The Score (670-AM), said in an interview with reporters at training camp. ‘‘The way [salaries] are slotted now . . . for a rookie to hold out because of some fine print, it’s pretty selfish from an agent standpoint to do that. This kid needs to be here. These are valuable days. They play a preseason game a week from now. And you do not get these days back.

‘‘You would think that an agent would be smart enough to understand that. At some point, the player’s got to understand: ‘This guy works for me. I’m not working for the agent.’ And you’ve got to stand up and say: ‘The contract’s fair. I need to get in practice and help this football team.’ ’’

Smith, the eighth overall pick of the NFL Draft, missed his seventh practice Friday. With salaries slotted, the impasse apparently is about the finer points of the contract.

The Bears have an extra week of camp because of the Hall of Fame Game. But Wannstedt said Smith will have a lot of catching up to do whenever he arrives.


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‘‘He still has his individual learning,’’ Wannstedt said. ‘‘Physically, I’m sure he’s running and doing stuff. But there’s no substitute for what [the Bears] are doing now, having the pads on and going through full-speed drills with pads on. You can talk all you want about shorts and ‘I’m doing it at a high school or college to get ready,’ [but] it’s not the same.’’

Wannstedt speaks from experience. He recalled rookie running back Curtis Enis, the fifth overall pick, missed the first 25 days of camp as a holdout in 1998. It was damaging to the Bears and, ultimately, to Enis.

‘‘I’ll tell you how damaging it was,’’ Wannstedt said. ‘‘We opened up the season at home against Jacksonville. I think it was 90 degrees that day. And we were down on the goal line. I remember [Enis] coming out of the game because he was exhausted. And we couldn’t use him at the end when we were down at the goal line.

‘‘The first thing I thought of: ‘If he was with us from Day 1 in training camp, his whole physical conditioning would have been different, and we could have closed that game out.’ We ended up losing in the last minute of the game.’’

Want your Bears training-camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times Bears beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the workout and interviews in a livestream conversation at 1 p.m. daily through Aug. 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter @suntimes_sports or follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.

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