Training camp has come and gone without an appearance from the Chicago Bears’ first-round pick. If you’re keeping score at home, that amounts to 28 days, 18 practices, and two preseason games.
But there’s still time, isn’t there? Smith can still get his deal done with plenty of time before the start of the season, right? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily be ready.
In fact, Head Coach Matt Nagy seems to believe Smith’s holdout might have the sort of negative impact that could limit the rookie’s chances of playing in Week 1 if it continues to go on for much longer: “I think it does,” Nagy said, via Gene Chamberlain of the Associated Press. “You’re playing at that position and there are a lot of calls that go on, very similar to a quarterback, there’s a lot going on. But I have full confidence in Vic (Fangio) and his staff that when he does get here, they’ll get him up to speed and whenever that is, we’ll see.”
(Michael: I don’t think this requires saying, but, no, I do not think Nagy is saying any of that publicly to apply pressure on his team’s first-round draft pick to give in and sign the deal without his added requests. But that doesn’t make that not true.)
In any case, Nagy would go onto say that it will be on the coaches to prepare Smith for the challenges ahead and get him ready for game action whenever he does show up. But getting a player game-ready and getting one in a position to be an impact player upon arrival are two very different things. And while Fangio is as good as it gets from a defensive coordinator standpoint, there is only so much he can do to get Smith ready in such a short period of time. Further, there is only so much that should be expected of Smith once he is ready to contribute.*
Bears GM Ryan Pace would prefer to keep things in house, but it doesn’t seem like there’s really anything to update. The team’s first-round pick remains on the outside looking in, as his representation reportedly wants protections for guaranteed money that could be taken away due to fines levied for a rule that is already causing issues in preseason and the team doesn’t seem to find it necessary to guarantee that money.
There also appears to be no productive movement when it comes to contract talks lately. Both sides of the negotiation table seem to be locked into their stance and neither seems willing to budge in order to get this done.
So, I guess were at the part where we say “good luck” to all parties, because luck might be the only thing either side hasn’t leaned on at this point in an attempt to get a deal done.
*At least the Bears have a pair of experienced inside linebackers they can lean on to take a bulk of the practice reps and game snaps. Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski are quite familiar with Fangio’s scheme and have valuable starting experience under their belts. That could prove to be essential as Smith’s holdout drags into the middle of August.