Bears rookie Roquan Smith is NFL’s lone holdout, but GM Ryan Pace still unfazed
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BOURBONNAIS — Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith’s holdout reached its 15th day on Monday with the only noteworthy development a dubious one for the Bears: After quarterback Sam Darnold — the No. 3 overall pick from USC — signed a rookie contract with the Jets, Smith is the only player among the 256 drafted this year who remains unsigned and not in training camp.
The Bears, from general manager Ryan Pace to coach Matt Nagy to teammates such as Danny Trevathan and Sam Acho, remain unperturbed by Smith’s absence. The sides remain at an impasse over finer points of Smith’s rookie contract, including guaranteed-money protection in the event of a suspension as a result of penalties for lowering-the-helmet hits.
Pace has not spoken to reporters since training camp opened July 19. But he addressed the Smith holdout in an appearance on ESPN 1000’s “Kap & Co.” show, even if he revealed little.
“People ask about deadlines or the outcome — it’s just not right to get into that right now,” Pace said. “I understand the questions. I understand the focus on it 100 percent. But I hope everyone also respects that it’s just best to handle these things inside.”
For what it’s worth, Pace indicated the tone of the negotiations with Smith’s agency is not contentious and that the issues are more layered than is known publicly.
“What’s challenging is we want to handle this in a professional manner,” Pace said. “Sometimes all the details aren’t maybe fully out there. We’re going to work through it, and we’re going to do it the right way with agents that we respect, with a player that we respect. And we’ll keep that in-house.”
Smith was expected to be a Week 1 starter when he was drafted eighth overall. He’ll miss the Bears’ preseason opener Thursday against the Ravens in the Hall of Fame Game — and likely the second preseason game against the Bengals on Aug. 9 — after missing his ninth practice.
Nagy still has the Smith holdout on “ignore.”
“Our guys, we haven’t mentioned one word about it,” Nagy said. “We’re just focused on what’s going on here.”
Indeed, Smith’s teammates have been unbothered by his absence. They generally support him doing whatever he has to do to get whatever he can.
“Some of these teams are grimy, man,” said linebacker Sam Acho, the Bears’ player representative for the NFLPA. “Some of these teams will try to do anything they can to take your money from you.”
But linebacker Danny Trevathan knows firsthand the Bears will let common sense prevail. When he was suspended for a dangerous hit on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams last year, the Bears could have nullified guaranteed-money language in his contract but did not do it.
“I was happy that they were on my side,” Trevathan said. “They know what type of player I am, and I’m just trying to make plays. Just to have them on my side goes to show this organization was trying to fight for me.”
Trevathan and Acho were among several teammates who have supported Smith and are unfazed by his absence.
“I’m sure him and his agent and Ryan Pace will work that out,” Trevathan said. “They were on my side about the hit against Green Bay, so I’m sure they’ll work it out. It’s just details within a contract. We want him here.”
Trevathan said he has been in touch with Smith during the holdout.
“I’ve been talking to him, just making sure as a person he was all right, [that] he’s not fading away from the game he loves,” Trevathan said. “I just make sure he’s all right. I’m pretty sure he wants to take care of himself and wants to get back in.”
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