LAKE FOREST — The main headline from Saturday’s practice at the Walter Payton Center was an obvious one.
Roquan Smith practiced for the first time since Bears training camp started this summer, participating only in individual drills.
Smith’s presence comes after the inside linebacker publicly demanded a trade 12 days earlier, just before Bears Family Fest practice at Soldier Field.
Although he did return to practice, Smith doesn’t have a new deal in place as the linebacker and he said afterward that he intends to play out the last year of his contract with the Bears.
“I know there is going to be a lot of questions about the process and everything like that and to get on the process it was very distasteful to say the least,” Smith said in his opening statement. “Wasn’t what I anticipated nor did what I expected from the situation, but I’m grateful for the fans, all the loyal fans and everyone, the players in the locker room and the city of Chicago that stood by me throughout this process. Means a lot to myself, but now I’m just shifting my focus on the season and more so just focused on being the best teammate I can be to those guys in the locker room.
“It’s the last year of my deal and, hey, I’m just going to take it, run with it, bet on myself like I’ve always done. The negotiations are over right now, so it’s more so I’m just focused on the season, going out there and being the best Bear I can be because I owe that to the guys in the locker room and to the city and the loyal fans out there.”
Ultimately, Smith’s intended contract number was not in line with what the team offered, so Smith wasn’t willing to sign the offer, especially a bad one in his eyes.
Now, the conversations about any type of contract extension are currently over.
Despite the contract negotiations not going Smith’s way, the former first-round draft pick hasn’t been disgruntled throughout this process.
“He’s been engaged. He’s been in the meetings, thoroughly there, mentally there,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “You know, asking questions in meetings, helping the younger players when he’s been out. So he’s been doing all that. So he’s been a pro that way for sure.
Once Smith determined the discussions weren’t making any progress, he discussed the plan to return to practice with Eberflus. Smith decided Saturday’s practice would be a good time to return because it would give him enough time to get his body ready for the season.
Now with Smith back and currently in the “ramp-up period,” the goal is to get him ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
“My full intention is to play this season and whatever happens, happens,” Smith said. “Whatever it is I have to go through this season, I’ll do it chin up, chest out, sun sets, no regrets, baby.”