Nicholas Morrow, not Roquan Smith, to handle huddle responsibilities for defense

Whenever Smith returns to the field, he won’t be the one relaying the Bears’ defensive plays in the huddle. Coordinator Alan Williams said the team gives that responsibility to the middle linebacker.

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Linebacker Nicholas Morrow speaks to the media about joining the Bears in March.

Linebacker Nicholas Morrow speaks to the media about joining the Bears in March. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Whenever linebacker Roquan Smith returns to the field, he won’t be the one relaying the Bears’ defensive plays in the huddle. Coordinator Alan Williams said Saturday the team gives that responsibility to the middle linebacker.

That’s Nicholas Morrow. Smith, a two-time second-team All-Pro, will play weak-side linebacker whenever his contract dispute — he wants an extension as he enters the last year of his rookie deal — is settled. Until then, he’s not practicing.

‘‘Right now, our [middle] linebacker, he’s directing the fronts, he’s directing the calls,’’ Williams said. ‘‘He has most of the huddle pre-snap communication.’’

The play-calling responsibility has gone ‘‘pretty smooth,’’ Morrow said after practice Saturday.

‘‘That’s a pretty standard thing, I think,’’ Morrow said. ‘‘I think the biggest thing is making sure we’re all on the same page and we’re over-communicating. Sometimes you get those young guys in there, and there are certain calls where it’s gotta be communicated consistently. Just getting that together is probably bigger than the calls, I think.’’

Smith played inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense during the first four seasons of his career. Playing weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme will be different. In the past, Smith’s line of sight would show players coming from both his left and right. As a weak-side linebacker, Smith has to worry about blockers coming from the inside toward one sideline.

Morrow said he and Smith have been able to build a rapport during team meetings and film sessions, in which Smith is participating.

‘‘That’s what we can do right now,’’ Morrow said.

No Jenkins — again

For the third consecutive day, offensive lineman Teven Jenkins — a second-round pick in 2021 — didn’t participate in practice. He hasn’t been spotted watching practice, either.

On Friday, coach Matt Eberflus said Jenkins was ‘‘day-to-day’’ while ‘‘working through something with the trainers.’’

As he has all camp, Smith began practice on an exercise bike and then watched drills. Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, who has an undisclosed injury, joined him Saturday.

Cornerback Thomas Graham remained out.

Center of attention

With Lucas Patrick recovering from a broken right thumb, Sam Mustipher — who started all 17 games for the Bears at center last season — slid over from right guard to handle the snapping duties.

Right guard Michael Schofield and left tackle Riley Reiff participated in team drills as they ramp up after signing last week.

Left guard Cody Whitehair, who has experience at center, said he hasn’t been asked to move there.

This and that

Toward the end of practice, Eberflus thanked the fans for attending training camp as part of the NFL’s ‘‘Back Together Saturday’’ promotion.

• Bears linemen, tight ends and linebackers are wearing the ‘‘guardian cap,’’ a padded shell on the outside of their helmets, as part of a leaguewide mandate for camp practices. The NFL said studies have shown the padding has produced at least a 10% reduction in head-injury impact.

• Rookie receiver Velus Jones’ circus catch down the left sideline was the most impressive offensive play of the day.

• The Bears have their first day off of camp Sunday and return for practice Monday.

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