Bears linebacker Roquan Smith returns to practice

Sports

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith is done sitting.

The team’s 2018 first-round draft pick had been staging a hold-in while seeking a contract extension, attending practices without taking part, but he began to practice Saturday for the first time at this training camp and plans to play out the year without the deal he is seeking.

“There’s no more offers at this time and I don’t think there will be any during the season,” Smith said. “My full focus has shifted to the season, so that’s what I’m focused on right now — just this season.

“It’s been an amazing four years and, hey, five, why not make it a little more special? That’s my plan.”

Smith has a contract for this season but said he has not been fined for the absences. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement allows the Bears to fine him for missed practices and the two missed preseason games.

Smith made it clear that although he is back, he isn’t happy about the situation.

“I think it was just more-so not coming to an agreement when I feel like I’ve busted my (rear) 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 (rear), 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 (teammates) because that’s who I truly care about.”

Smith was trying to negotiate a contract himself as he had fired his agent. He had some assistance from a manager of pro athletes named Saint Omni.

“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.”

Doing this made for some heated situations. Smith posted a letter asking for a trade on Twitter two weeks ago, but Bears GM Ryan Poles refused to take the situation in that direction and continued to try to reach an agreement.

“Yeah, it was very emotional for me because normally I tend to not voice my opinion as much but I thought it was time for me to do that,” Smith said of the letter. “And there was a lot of different things going on out there. A lot of different speculating and like things of that nature, and I just wanted the fans to know and the great city of Chicago to know like what was really going on since no one really knew.

“A lot of people was kind of caught in a blind so I just wanted that to be known.”

Bears coach Matt Eberflus welcomed Smith back at practice. Smith had practiced throughout the voluntary work and mandatory minicamp in the offseason before starting his hold-in at training camp.

Now the goal is to get Smith ready to start at weakside linebacker in the opener. It will be a gradual process as Smith merely went through some individual drills on Saturday.

“I mean, we’re ramping him up. We’ll see where it goes,” Eberflus said, adding “There’s certainly plenty enough time to get that done.”

The Bears preseason finale is Aug. 27 at Cleveland and the opener against San Francisco is Sept. 11.

NOTES: Starting safety Jaquan Brisker sustained a hand injury and there is no timetable on his return. … The Bears returned to practice with Teven Jenkins playing at starting right guard and Larry Borom as starting right tackle as they continued looking at those two second-year players in the starting lineup after Eberflus felt they had strong efforts against Seattle in the second preseason game.

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