Bears

Coach Matt Nagy: Bears, Roquan Smith hung up on helmet-rule contract language

BOURBONNAIS — Linebacker Roquan Smith’s camp and the Bears disagree on the financial protections he should receive from the team if he’s punished under the NFL’s new use-of-helmet rule, among other details.

Coach Matt Nagy gave the most insight to date about the source of Smith’s holdout, which reached its eighth practice Saturday.

The use-of-helmet rule allows officials, with the aid of replay, to eject a player who, with an unobstructed path and other available options, decides to initiate contact with his helmet.

The violation could turn out to be a rare event — NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent has said that only three of 40,000 plays last year would’ve resulted in ejections — but no one, from agents to teams, is quite sure how it will change the game. More ejections could lead to more suspensions — and loss of pay from his contract guarantee. While the new rule affects offensive and defensive players, Smith’s position means he will be a frequent tackler.

Roquan Smith runs during Georgia's pro day. (AP)

Seeking financial protections against the helmet rule is “part of the issue” with the contract, Nagy said, adding that divulging further details wouldn’t be fair to Smith or the team. Nagy said, though, that only “very few” players who signed this year received similar language in their contracts.

While Smith’s agency undoubtedly wants his client to be protected — a source said his side is looking for “very specific” language — the Bears don’t want to set a precedent that will be used by future draftees.

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“For both sides, it’s more of a language deal, a language-type deal,” Nagy said. “For me, as a first-year head coach going through this, my thing is just collaborating with [general manager] Ryan [Pace] and what they have going on with the agent. And making sure that we understand, together, [that] as a head coach, I just continue to keep plugging away with what we have and who we have.

“We’ll eventually get that thing figured out. The biggest thing for our organization and for our players is for me to be focused on who’s here right now, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Smith’s salary of about $18.5 million over four years — plus a fifth-year team option — is all but cemented by the collective-bargaining agreement.

The No. 8 overall pick is one of only two unsigned 2018 draft picks, along with Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

“I know I keep saying it’s part of the process — it is,” Nagy said. “It’s us and really New York right now. We understand that; he understands that. We will continue to keep trying to do our best to make this thing happen.

“At the same time, what we need to do is we need to focus on who’s here right now, right? That’s the realism of it all. There’s valuable reps that are going on with our guys. We appreciate all that hard work and effort because we’re shorter with numbers, but we just keep going forward. We worry about what we can control as a team. And we keep plugging away.”

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