New tackle rule partly to blame for holdout of Bears' Smith
By GENE CHAMBERLAIN
Jul. 30, 2018
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) — When linebacker Danny Trevathan returned to practice Monday after recovering from a pulled hamstring, it left the Chicago Bears missing only one inside linebacker — first-round draft pick Roquan Smith.
When Smith will join the team is hard to say.
After the New York Jets reached a contract agreement Monday with quarterback Sam Darnold, Smith became the lone unsigned pick from the 2018 draft class.
"We will continue to keep trying to do our best to make this thing happen," Bears coach Matt Nagy said after Saturday's practice. "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."
Cash is not the problem — at least in terms of how much Smith is to be paid. That amount is slotted for the eighth pick of the draft.
The stumbling block is whether the Bears should be allowed to take back guaranteed bonus money in the future from Smith if he is ever suspended for disciplinary reasons, including a violation of the league's new rule preventing players from leading with their helmets.
"Well, for both sides, it's more of a language deal, a language-type deal," Nagy said.
Asked specifically if the issue is the helmet rule, Nagy said: "That's part of the issue with it. As far as the details, I'm not going to get into all that right now. That wouldn't be fair to either party, but there's some of that to it."
The new rule stipulates a player will be penalized for lowering his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet. The player will be ejected and could be subject to suspension if he is determined to have lowered his helmet to "establish a linear body posture."
The Bears had a somewhat similar situation last year with Trevathan when he was suspended for an illegal hit on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
In that instance, Chicago management never sought to reclaim any bonus money given to Trevathan.
"They were on my side about the hit against Green Bay," Trevathan said.
As a result, Trevathan remained optimistic his new teammate will soon be in camp.
"So I'm sure they'll work it out," Trevathan said. "It's just details within a contract. We want him here."
Trevathan said he has been in contact with Smith during the holdout.
"I've been talking to him, just making sure as a person he was all right, he's not fading away from the game that he loves," Trevathan said. "I just make sure that he's all right. I've been through some stuff.
"I'm pretty sure he wants to take care of himself and he wants to get back in. I'm sure he's missing just as much as we are."
Smith was fully involved in off-season work with the Bears, so Trevathan doubts his teammate will have any trouble catching up after the holdout ends.
Chicago has an extra preseason game this season, so Smith's holdout has come at a time when the Bears normally wouldn't have been in training camp. They open preseason Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, against the Baltimore Ravens in the Hall of Fame Game.
The Bears have traditionally been among the first teams to get all their draft picks signed. In one 10-year stretch, they were the first team to sign all their picks nine times.
They haven't had a holdout of note since Cedric Benson missed 36 days in 2005.
Nick Kwiatkoski and John Timu have taken most of the snaps at inside linebacker during training camp with the first team. Trevathan is practicing on a limited basis until he's 100 percent healthy.
Kwiatkoski has earned Nagy's respect in scrimmages. A third-year player, Kwiatkoski had been a reserve but played extensively each of his first two years because of injuries and suspensions to Trevathan and former Bear Jerrell Freeman.
"I love his mentality," Nagy said of Kwiatkoski. "He didn't blink when we drafted Roquan. He stepped right on in there and put the horse blinders on and went after it."