Chicago Bears HC Nagy sheds some light on LB Smith’s absence
BOURBONNAIS -- First-round draft pick Roquan Smith remains out of camp as his contract negotiations drag on, but Bears coach Matt Nagy shed some new light on the stalemate, specifically contract language that would address a new rule on initiating contact with the helmet.
“That’s part of the issue with it,” Nagy said of the absent inside linebacker. “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. For both sides, it’s more of a language-type deal.”
According to the new rule: “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent.” The contact does not have to be helmet-to-helmet.
In addition to a 15-yard penalty, a foul for initiating contact with the helmet could also result in a player’s ejection, if the infraction is deemed to be egregious. That determination would be based on a judgment call after film review by game officials and/or replay officials in New York. A suspension would cost the offending player a game check (one-seventeenth of his salary) for every week he’s out.
Though Nagy offered part of the reason for Smith’s absence, he didn’t say any progress has been made in the previous 24 hours. Smith’s fellow Bears rookies reported to training camp 12 days ago, and he has now missed eight full-team practices. Jets QB Sam Darnold, the third overall pick, is the only other first-rounder unsigned.
“Right now, it’s the same,” Nagy said of Smith’s contract situation following Saturday morning’s practice. “I know I keep saying, ‘It’s part of the process.’ It is. 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 are 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 with what we have and who we have.”
One of those players who has been at every practice and made some notable contributions is third-year ILB Nick Kwiatkoski. The 2016 fourth-round pick is working alongside journeyman John Timu with the first team, since starter Danny Trevathan has also missed every practice with a hamstring injury.
Kwiatkoski started 13 games the previous two seasons when Trevathan and others were injured, and he intercepted a Mitch Trubisky pass during Saturday’s practice, taking it back for a touchdown.
Speculation was that Kwiatkoski would enter the regular season as the No. 3 inside linebacker behind Trevathan and Smith, but Nagy took exception to that pecking order.
“I don’t necessarily know if (Kwiatkoski) is No. 3,” the coach said. “I told you (the media) this at the beginning: ‘You’ve got to earn your spot’. ‘Kwit’ right now is playing really well. You saw the pick that he had; he’s thumping people in the run game. I love his mentality. He didn’t blink when we drafted Roquan. He stepped right on in there and put the horse blinders on and went after it. That’s where we’re at right now. I’m excited for him, I’m proud of him and I just want to keep that thing going.”
ILBs Danny Trevathan (hamstring) and Joel Iyiegbuniwe (shoulder), OLBs Kylie Fitts (arm), Kasim Edebali (oblique) and Aaron Lynch (hamstring), CBs Sherrick McManis (hamstring), Rashard Fant (undisclosed) and Kevin Toliver (quad), TE Ben Braunecker (hamstring), C Hroniss Grasu (calf) and OL Will Pericak (undisclosed) did not practice. OG Kyle Long returned to practice after a planned day off Friday.