CHICAGO (CBS) — His 29-day contract holdout now in the rear view mirror, rookie linebacker Roquan Smith said it was an “awesome feeling” to be back at practice, and said he’s confident he’ll be able to get up to speed in time for the regular season.
Smith, the number 8 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, was the last draft pick to sign a deal with his team.
While the rookie linebacker took part in organized team activities and minicamps this summer, Smith missed all of the team’s training camp in Bourbonnais as his agents and the team wrangled over contract language regarding whether the Bears could take back any of his guaranteed money if he were suspended for violating the league’s new helmet contact rules or for on-field rules violations outside the confines of play.
After returning to practice at Halas Hall on Tuesday, Smith declined to discuss the details of his holdout, repeatedly answering questions about contract talks by saying he left the talks up to his agents and general manager Ryan Pace.
“That was just for my agent and Mr. Pace,” Smith said. “I’m happy that they got it all figured out.”
Smith said he has no regrets at holding out for nearly a month.
“That’s just the business side of things, and it is what it is, and I’m just happy to be here now,” he said.
With less than a month before the season opener in Green Bay, Smith said he’s confident the Bears coaches, trainers, and athletic staff will get him physically ready for the regular season. He said he spent the past month training at home in Athens, Georgia. He said he’s also been studying the playbook and watching film to make sure he’s ready to play as soon as possible.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy said it’s too soon to tell how close Smith is to game shape.
“He’s only been here an hour and a half so far. So we’re going to work through that,” Nagy said. “We’ve got to see where he’s at in regards to his shape, his health, football shape, etc.”
Nagy said the coaching staff won’t know until later this week whether Smith will play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Broncos in Denver. He also said it’s too early to know if Smith will be ready to play in the season opener against the Packers.
“Obviously, you hope so, right? That’s one of the benefits of him being here now, but we’ve just got to see,” he said.
Nagy also declined to comment on Smith’s contract, but said if the rookie’s holdout lasted much longer, there might have been a danger he would have to miss regular season games.
“If it would have stretched out any further, it would have been difficult,” Nagy said.
Smith said he didn’t pay attention to any of the social media commentary on his contract holdout, and added he’s not worried it might have hurt his image among Bears fans.
“It’s kind of in the past now, you know? I’m just happy to have it done, and that’s pretty much it,” he said.
The Bears will now travel to Englewood, Colorado, for joint practices with the Broncos on Wednesday and Thursday.