Bears

Bears’ Matt Nagy keeping eye on the ball as Roquan Smith holdout hits Day 23

BOURBONNAIS — Eventually, Roquan Smith’s holdout will become an issue for Matt Nagy, but the Bears’ first-year head coach wasn’t ready to contemplate that Tuesday — Day 23 of Smith’s contract holdout.

“There’s no news,” Nagy said after practice Tuesday. “As we’ve all said from the beginning, there is a process. I just need to worry about who’s here. And that’s really, truly where I’m at. I’m at a point right now where I just want to focus on who’s here and that’s all — control what I can control, and those are the guys that we have, and it’s really not that hard.

“You can spin it in a million different ways, but it’s pretty simple. If you’re here, that’s where we’re at. If you’re not, you can go through the process and eventually get it figured out.”

Be that as it may, the holdout of their No. 1 draft pick — the eighth overall pick — becomes more problematic for the Bears — from general manager Ryan Pace to Nagy and Vic Fangio to his teammates — with each practice that can’t be downplayed forever. And it’s past the point of being a normal process. Smith is only the second rookie to hold out more than three days in the last five years. His holdout is the second-longest since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement set up a slotted salary structure for all rookies — behind Joey Bosa’s 31-day holdout before signing with the Chargers in 2016.

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

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

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With both sides virtually silent, there’s no indication of movement that will lead to an end of Smith’s holdout. It’s possible Smith could miss the entire preseason and — who knows? — part or all of the regular season.

“I have no idea. I don’t know if it will,” Nagy said. “This is where we’re at. . . . It’s Week 2 of the preseason. There’s a ways to go yet.”

Bears linebackers coach Glenn Pires took a similar stance when the Bears made their defensive position coaches available to the media Tuesday. “All my energy is with the guys who are here right now,” Pires said.

Smith was expected to become a Week 1 starter at inside linebacker, but the time for him to get acclimated to football and Fangio’s defense in time to do that is growing short.

“We laid a foundation, which we started in the spring, and the guys that are here right now are taking advantage of that,” Pires said. “So I don’t care what position it is, missing time and missing reps at this level is very, very valuable.”

Bears second-year safety Eddie Jackson, who signed on time and had a solid rookie season in 2017, said he was a little surprised Smith’s holdout has lasted this long. “But I understand it’s a business and you gotta do what’s best for you in the end,” Jackson added. “We want him back as fast as possible, but we understand what’s going on. But he’s a stand-up guy, very humble, so you know when he gets back, he’s going to work.”

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