Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith ends hold-in, to play out final year of rookie deal

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith ended his hold-in on Saturday and participated in practice for the first time during training camp.

Smith, 25, said he plans to play out the final year of his rookie contract, which is set to pay him $9.7 million on his fifth-year option, and that negotiations are “over right now.”

“I thought it was very distasteful, to say the least,” Smith said of contract talks between himself and the Bears. “Wasn’t what I anticipated, nor … what I expected from the situation, but I’m grateful for the fans, all the loyal fans and everyone, the players as well in the locker room and the city of Chicago that stood behind me throughout this process. It means a lot to myself.

“But now, I’m just shifting my focus to the season and more so just focused on being the best teammate I can be to those guys in the locker room.”

Smith demanded a trade on Aug. 9 in a written statement after accusing the Bears of not negotiating in good faith over a contract extension. The former first-round pick, who represented himself throughout negotiations, previously said that he had been trying to work out a deal since April.

“I think it was just more so not coming to an agreement when I feel like I’ve busted my ass so long here and not being rewarded with something I thought was rightfully deserved,” Smith said. “In a sense it’s like, hey, you bust your ass, you may get rewarded in a sense. But hey, that’s that. I’m moving past it now and I’m focused on the season and going out there and enjoying the time with my guys because that’s who I truly care about.”

Smith declined to specify an amount or the specific number he was looking to be paid on his next deal but claimed that the Bears put de-escalators in their offers. The linebacker said there are no more offers on the table and doesn’t anticipate that there will be during the season, thus his decision to return to practice and begin preparations for Chicago’s Week 1 opener versus San Francisco.

The Bears held a non-padded practice on Saturday two days after their 27-11 preseason win at Seattle. Smith went through stretching and nearly all individual drills with Chicago’s linebackers. He did not participate in the team portion of practice and is in a ramp-up period, according to Matt Eberflus.

The Bears coach said he does not consider Smith to be disgruntled over how contract talks played out.

“No. Not at all,” Eberflus said. “He’s been engaged. He’s been in the meetings, thoroughly there, mentally there. You know, asking questions in meetings, helping the younger players when he’s been out. So he’s been doing all that. So he’s been a pro that way for sure.”

After reporting to training camp on time with the expectation that he would not practice until he received a new deal, Smith was immediately placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with an undisclosed injury. Smith says he has not been fined by the Bears for the practices he skipped after he was removed from the PUP list upon passing a physical, which came one day after his trade request.

Last week, the NFL’s management council sent a memo to all 32 teams stating that Saint Omni, a non-NFLPA-certified agent, had been contacting teams on behalf of Smith, which is prohibited by Article 48 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Sources told ESPN that the Bears did not grant Smith permission to seek a trade.

“I have a team of advisers and Saint is someone I know, I trust and has my best interest at heart,” Smith said.

Smith has represented himself without an NFLPA certified agent since the 2020 season. He defended his decision on Saturday to go through negotiations without outside representation.

“No, I don’t regret not having an agent throughout this process,” Smith said. “I think that’s just a bunch of excuses when people say that. Times are changing and I feel like players want to be at the table to have full transparency to know what’s actually going on, what’s being said, because a lot of people can say a lot of different things but when you’re there yourself, you see it with your own eyes, you know for a fact what’s going on.”

Asked whether he still has a desire to be traded, Smith noted that he has since shifted his focus toward the 2022 season in Chicago after his trade request was declined. His “full intention is to play this season and whatever happens, happens.”

“I have a contract to fulfill and I’m just going to go out there and be the best teammate I can be, best guy in the locker room I can be to those guys and that’s my focus and, hey, I’m going to do it the same way I’ve always done it: 100 miles an hour and won’t let up,” Smith said.


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