LAKE FOREST – Starting with his surprise deactivation before Sunday’s game with the Vikings and continuing through most of this week, the status of the Bears’ starting middle linebacker was a complete mystery.
All that was known is that Roquan Smith missed the game with a “personal matter,” with head coach Matt Nagy nor any of the players willing to say much other than that. They were respectful of the situation going on with their second-year player, even if those on the outside were very curious as to what was going on.
Yet on Wednesday, there was Smith, standing in front of his locker, ready to meet with the media for his first session since his quick leave of absence. Nagy had announced earlier that day that the linebacker would be full participant in practice, and while not willing to divulge details of the matter, Smith was eager to get things going again.
“I’m good, it was personal, it’s behind me. More so, looking forward to getting better today out at practice and going back to work with my guys” said Smith.
Sunday’s deactivation was the first game missed for Smith in his still young Bears career since he’d played in all 17 games including playoffs his rookie season and three so far in 2019.
“Moving forward, I’m past the situation actually so, I’m just addressing it because I have to because it already happened,” said Smith.
Indeed the linebacker was a full participant in Bears’ practice on Wednesday, just as he was all last week, making his absence for Sunday more mysterious. But now that Smith is back, the linebacker’s expectation is to be back in his starting spot on Sunday when the Bears play their first game in Europe since 2011.
“I will play this week,” said Smith confidently when asked if he felt like he would take the field against Oakland.
Smith accumulated 24 tackles in the first three games of the season before missing the contest against the Vikings. Backup Nick Kwiatkoski filled in admirably, registering a team-high ten tackle with a sack and forced fumble. But having the starter back in there, and, more importantly, with his personal matter behind him, is great news for his fellow defenders.
“It’s amazing,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara of having Smith back at practice and in the lineup. “He’s always been at practice,he’s always been at meetings. So it’s not like he’s just coming here after being away for a while. But him saying he’s gonna play, when I heard him saying that, I was excited.”
So are the Bears and especially Smith, who appears ready to put an unusual week behind him.