LAKE FOREST – When this tweet came got out there around 1:30 PM on Sunday, it took fans very much by surprise.
#Bears LB Roquan Smith has been downgraded to doubtful for today’s game.
— Chicago Bears (@BearsPR) September 29, 2019
Starting middle linebacker Roquan Smith, who didn’t appear on the injury report all week long, was a sudden scratch from the lineup for the Vikings game under two hours before kickoff. The linebacker appeared strong in his first three games of the season, collecting 24 tackles in the first three games of the season along with a stop for a loss.
After the 16-6 victory over the Vikings, head coach Matt Nagy said his absence from the lineup was a “personal matter” and refused to divulge details.
“Yeah, I’m going to leave it as it’s completely a personal matter and I’m just going to completely leave it at that,” said Nagy on Sunday, and he didn’t have much more to offer on Monday.
The coach remained mum on the linebacker’s absence from the lineup and wouldn’t confirm his status for the upcoming game in London against the Raiders on Sunday afternoon. Reporters asked him a number of times about Smith, but Nagy would only go as far as he did on Sunday evening.
“It’s completely a personal issue and I’m not going to answer anymore about it. That’s where it’s at right now, ” said Nagy of Smith. “I understand where you all are coming from, but out of respect to this right now, I just want to leave it at that.”
Smith would have to be back by Thursday, since that’s when the team is leaving for London for their game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Sunday. The eighth-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the middle linebacker was everything the Bears hoped for in his first season. He led the team with 122 tackles while adding five sacks with an interception in the regular season and playoff game against the Eagles.
Nick Kwiatkoski would likely fill in for Smith should he not be able to go on Sunday, just as he did well this past week against the Vikings. He led the team with ten tackles to go along with a sack and forced fumble as the defense allowed just 222 total yards and just 40 on the ground. That included just 35 yards from Dalvin Cook, who was leading the NFL in rushing coming into the game.