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Why Roquan Smith, Aaron Lynch are Bears’ two most important players this week

Bears linebacker Roquan Smith takes part in drills during a joint NFL football training camp session Aug. 15 | David Zalubowski, AP photo

Aaron Lynch is getting tired of having to be patient.

The outside linebacker signed with the Bears in March and hurt his left ankle in April. A hamstring injury slowed him in June, and a hamstring pull on the first team play of the first practice in Bourbonnais marred his training camp.

Five days before cuts and 13 days before the season opener at Green Bay, Lynch sat at his locker at Halas Hall on Monday, picking at his lunch.

“You’ve got to be ready for Week  1,” he said. “I have to get ready. It’s a process, you know. You take some steps, and you have to take it step by step by step. But, shoot, I could play a full game right now if I wanted to. That’s how, mentally, I’m ready.”

But is he physically?

Lynch and rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith, the Bears’ first-round draft pick, continued to be limited in practice Monday, with the preseason finale looming Thursday. Coach Matt Nagy said that he’d love to get Smith into the exhibition against the Bills to test his conditioning, and that Smith’s recovery from a tight left hamstring last week is looking positive.

“I just don’t know if that’s where we’re going to be [Thursday],” said Nagy, who noted that Smith’s status against the Packers on Sept.  9 won’t necessarily be affected by the exhibition. Smith is expected to speak to reporters Tuesday.

Nagy said the Bears have been cautious this preseason but are at the point where they need to push Smith and Lynch, within reason. He wants to see Lynch demonstrate his conditioning and some vigor if he plays Thursday.


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“[Be] somebody that doesn’t play four, five plays and then has to come out, or is just status quo out there,” Nagy said. “We want to see some production from him. He’s a player that’s played in this defense under [coordinator] Vic [Fangio] that’s had success, but we want to see him out there. He understands that — go out there, play hard, make plays, but you’ve got to be available to do that. He gets it.”

Lynch wants to play.

“I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, or if they’ll save me for Week 1,” he said. “I’m ready to roll.”

Asked if Lynch’s job depended on this — cuts are due Saturday — Nagy detailed Lynch’s experience playing for Fangio with the 49ers and pointed to the Bears’ lack of depth at outside linebacker. So it sounds as though his roster spot is safe. The Bears also have already paid a $1.25 million signing bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus for Lynch’s services.

It’s human nature to want to impress your new teammates, and Lynch thinks he flashed what he can do during the offseason program. But it’s not the same.

“Now it’s just gaining their trust when I’m on the field, so they can trust me to go do the thing I need to do,” he said. “I’ve practiced with these guys, and we’ve done a lot of things together off the field, but there’s nothing like playing a game with people and seeing what they can do, or if you can trust them, or if they can trust you.”

Being patient with Smith’s tight hamstring was the right move, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said — and more important than any preseason snap count.

“He’s been smart. He’s still listening,” Trevathan said. “We’ve just got to take care of these injuries when they come along. They can happen to anybody. But we’ve got to be smart about it and just get him to the game [against the Packers].”

Outside linebacker Sam Acho said he has seen enough of Smith — whether or not he plays Thursday — to know what he can do.

“I mean, Roquan’s ready,” Acho said. “Roquan is a baller.”