Dear Roquan, please sign soon so we can watch you next Thursday
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It would be nice if Bears rookie inside linebacker Roquan Smith ended his holdout before Thursday, August 2.
That’s when the Bears play the Ravens in the nationally televised Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Yes, it’s a stupid contest where the best thing that can come out of it is that nobody gets hurt, but it’s also an event saluting two of the greatest inside linebackers to ever play the game: former Bear Brian Urlacher and former Raven Ray Lewis.
Those guys are going into the nearby Hall of Fame.
But if Smith doesn’t show up by kickoff, the Bears’ first-round draft pick and purported heir to the mighty Bears’ linebacker legacy might be sticking his toe across the threshold into the hall of shame.
What a fitting moment it would be if Smith and Urlacher are both there in Canton, the one being honored, the other — even if ever so briefly — blasting foes on the field.
It would be helpful in getting the nation to think of us as the City of Broad Shoulders (and shoulder pads) once again, rather than as the rat capital of the U.S., per a recent study. ‘‘Chi-Rat’’ doesn’t have the ring of the City of Angels or the Big Apple, does it?
But this is business, this football stuff.
It’s hard to blame Smith and his reps, CAA, for trying to squeeze whatever they can from the small tube that is an NFL career. But then too, this apparently has come down to items as minor as how fast the guaranteed bonus money will be paid out and what the Bears will owe Smith if they cut him before the end of his fourth season.
Like the dude might be that big a dud?
You never want to give NFL management the nod when it comes to disputes with players — Who hobbles away with ruined knees and busted noggins, after all? — but this CAA gang, based in Los Angeles, has dealt with movie stars for many years, and the agents there only recently got their fingers into the pro-sports pie.
Holding out means nothing to them. Onward to stardom is the rule. It’s telling that an old CAA T-shirt showed a talking dog telling his agent, ‘‘But what I’d really like to do is direct.’’
This Hall of Fame Game is an extra preseason game, making five for the Bears, so technically the holdout is not a big deal. The Bears and Ravens are in camp earlier than every other team, because of their ‘‘reward.’’
But football is all about cohesiveness on the field, practicing together, getting to know coaches and schemes, especially for rookies learning the process. And any organization wants its showpiece — in this case, the recent eighth overall draft choice — to be at the first big dance, putting on a We-are-one smile for the media and fans.
You have to love general manager Ryan Pace’s delicate way of saying Smith’s holdout is sort of OK. ‘‘It isn’t necessarily abnormal,’’ said the GM.
A mole isn’t necessarily abnormal, either, unless it becomes skin cancer.
What you can lose during a protracted holdout is good will. If a holdout screws up or gets hurt once he signs, critics will always blame his tardiness as a decisive factor, whether it was or not.
The Bears are now a team that prides itself on getting draft choices signed quickly and into the fold. Back in 1998 and 1999, first-round picks Curtis Enis and then Cade McNown held out for awhile. How well did their careers turn out?
Since wage scales have been slotted for draft choices since 2011, it’s likely CAA wants to show its muscle and insularity by arguing over minutiae rather than substance. This can be risky. Yet the firm represented Chargers rookie linebacker and former Ohio State player Joey Bosa two years ago when he held out for a month. Bosa finally signed, missed four games with a leg injury, and then lit it up with 10½ sacks and was named the 2016 defensive rookie of the year.
So this Smith holdout could be a big deal or nothing.
Urlacher himself had an often rocky and criticism-filled career with the Bears. He wasn’t Dick Butkus. He wasn’t Mike Singletary. Why, to old geezers, he wasn’t even Bill George, the first Bears middle linebacker to make the Hall of Fame and maybe the first true middle linebacker ever.
Let’s see what Roquan Smith’s got. Let’s just see him, period.