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Bears open preseason without holdout rookie Roquan Smith — 18 days and counting

Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, the eighth overall pick of the 2018 draft, has missed 27 days, 14 practices and two preseason because of a contract impasse. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP photo

CANTON, Ohio — Brian Urlacher was here. But Roquan Smith was not. So much for the Hall of Fame Game storyline segueing the celebration of another great Bears linebacker with the debut of a first-round draft pick the Bears hope is the next one.

The Bears opened the preseason without Smith, the eighth overall pick of the 2018 draft, whose contract holdout reached 18 days Thursday. The Bears and Smith’s agency, CAA, remain at an impasse over details of the contract, including but not limited to language regarding the protection of guaranteed money related to suspensions from the NFL’s new lowering-the-helmet rule.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace was in the press box at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, where the Bears played the Ravens, but did not address reporters. The Bears have been careful not to make the contract dispute with CAA a public one.

With Jets quarterback Sam Darnold signing earlier this week, Smith is the last of the 256 players drafted this year who has not signed a contract. His 18-day holdout is the second-longest since 2011, when a new collective-bargaining agreement set up a slotted rookie salary structure that has all but eliminated rookie holdouts. Only Joey Bosa’s 31-day holdout before signing with the Chargers in 2016 has gone longer.


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In fact, only four rookies in the last five years have missed training-camp practice as a holdout, and each of them has been represented by CAA — Smith, Darnold, Titans wide receiver Corey Davis in 2017 and Bosa in 2016.

The Bears still are hopeful Smith can catch up if he signs soon. They have four preseason games left and 38 days until the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Packers.

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 1 p.m. daily through Aug. 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag “#BearsBeatLive” or send them directly to @suntimes_sports. Also, follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.