The Chicago Bears and starting inside linebacker Roquan Smith are currently engaged in negotiations for his future contract, and things have gotten a tad more contentious.
After releasing a statement through NFL insider Ian Rapoport on August 9 in which Smith revealed he asked the team for a trade, noting the Bears “didn’t value” him, general manager Ryan Poles fired back.
Initially, the Bears had placed Smith on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list so he wouldn’t be fined for “holding in,” as was not practicing while contract negotiations were taking place. A day after his trade request went public, however, the team announced it had removed Smith from the PUP list, subjecting him to fines of up to $40,000 for every practice he misses moving forward. He could also receive hefty fines for missing games.
Poles held a brief press conference to address Smith’s trade request, and expressed disappointment with where the two sides were currently. After speaking with the media after practice on August 11, it’s clear Bears head coach Matt Eberflus isn’t happy about the situation, either.
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Eberflus: We Expect Healthy Players to Practice
Smith was present at the team’s August 11 practice, but he didn’t participate. When asked why Smith wasn’t practicing, Eberflus was frank in his reply.
“Roquan Smith came off PUP. He was cleared by our medical staff as healthy, and he did not practice,” Eberflus said. “The reason why for that is, you’ll have to ask him. We expect all of our healthy players to practice, and that was his decision, and like I said you’ll have to ask him. I have not talked to him about it, so I have no further comment on that situation.”
The Bears coach was asked whether any punishment would be doled out to Smith for missing practice, and he sidestepped the question. “That discipline really comes from the front office,” he replied. “That right there, we’ll be in conversation with that. I’m not going to get into the details on what discipline is there.”
Eberflus also told the media he was trying to be respectful of Smith’s position, but it was clear the Bears coach was bothered by the LB’s absence.
“Do I certainly know what Roquan’s going through? I don’t know,” Eberflus said. “I’m not in his chair. I don’t know that. You never put yourself in another man’s shoes. His perspective may be something different. That’s where he is. I’m going to be respectful of that.”
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There’s a New Sheriff in Town for the Bears
Poles made it clear the Bears want to extend Smith, but he also stressed that he was going to put the team above any negotiations with individual players. For his part, Eberflus has been no-nonsense in his attempt to mold the Bears into an intensity-driven unit.
Check out what the Bears coach told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer on August 8 about the culture he and the new regime are trying to instill:
“The way we go about our business here is not for everybody,” Eberflus told Breer. “It’s not easy. So the way we work, the way we strain on the field, the way our coaches ask our guys to retain information, it’s not for everybody. And we’ll find out, that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to find out who the Chicago Bears are, in terms of the players, in terms of the people in the building. And if you’re a guy that likes to work hard, that’s respectful, that has the right winning attitude, guess what? You’ll stick. And if you’re not, we’re going to move to a different direction.”
The direction the team moves in relation to Smith will be crucial in establishing that culture. Right now, the two sides are engaged in a chess match with no end in sight.