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LB Roquan Smith’s ‘monster’ season among few bright spots for Bears in 2021

Smith did something unprecedented Sunday as he continued building a case for an enormous contract extension this offseason.

Roquan Smith is third in the NFL with 110 tackles.
Roquan Smith is third in the NFL with 110 tackles.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There still are some bright spots for the Bears as their season spirals and they keep losing players to injuries.

The brightest, and perhaps the most talented player still standing, is inside linebacker Roquan Smith. Smith’s stock has surged for a fourth consecutive season, and his sustained success might finally earn him a Pro Bowl selection.

Smith had a career-high 17 tackles in the 16-13 loss to the Ravens, pushing him to 110 for the season — third in the NFL. That’s the most tackles by a Bear through 10 games since the league standardized tackles as a statistic in 1994.

“Roquan is a monster,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said Monday. “Just going back and watching the film, you take it for granted when you’re on his team. But I just sat back and was like, ‘Damn, he’s a monster.’ He really leads our team. He really brings us all together. He plays with a different mindset. You can see it on the field.”

Smith’s ascension is likely about to pay off with a massive contract extension. The Bears exercised the 2022 option on his rookie deal, but both sides appear to be motivated to solidify his future with the organization.

Fellow inside linebackers Fred Warner of the 49ers and Darius Leonard of the Colts set the market with huge contracts over the summer. Warner signed for a then-record for his position of $95 million over five years. Smith exceeded it with a five-year, $99.3 million deal.

Smith repeatedly has downplayed that incentive this season and likewise didn’t have much of a reaction to his 17-tackle outburst against the Ravens.

“I don’t really care too much about the accolades,” he said. “I just know when I go out there, I’m the best player out there. So that’s my thing: Just go out there week-in and week-out and show that.”

Injury report (sort of)

The Bears did not practice Monday in advance of their Thanksgiving game against the Lions, but the NFL requires teams to provide an estimated injury report every day on a short week.

In addition to quarterback Justin Fields’ rib injury, coach Matt Nagy projected that defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle), wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring), running back Damien Williams (calf) and cornerback Duke Shelley (hamstring) would’ve been out.

Nagy also said that safety Eddie Jackson (hamstring) and wide receiver Darnell Mooney (foot) would’ve been limited.

Lions coach Dan Campbell marked starting quarterback Jared Goff (oblique) as limited. Goff missed the game against the Browns, and the Lions are expected to start backup Tim Boyle on Thursday.