Moving trucks backed up to the Bears locker room Sunday before the final practice at Olivet Nazarene University. For parts of five weeks, coach Matt Nagy’s team worked here to forge an identity — creative and diverse on offense and tough and assignment-sound on defense. That process continues as the Bears transition to the second phase of the preseason.
To that end, the convoy pulled out of Bourbonnais with a lighter load than the team had hoped. They moved only 89 players back to team headquarters in Lake Forest. Training camp came and went with one glaring absence from the 90-man roster.
Roquan Smith’s holdout continues. Another milestone was crossed off the calendar Sunday with the rookie linebacker away from the team.
There are no indications Smith and the Bears are having productive negotiations to solve the impasse about whether the team could reclaim his guaranteed money if he were suspended for an on-field rule violation outside the parameters of a football play.
Although that could change at any time, realistic speculation about Smith’s arrival shifts to the start of the regular season instead of whether he might play in any of the Bears’ three remaining exhibitions.
That was reflected in a line of questioning to Nagy about whether Smith’s absence from camp could limit him in the Sept. 9 opener at the Packers.
“I would say so,” Nagy said. “I think it does. 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.”
Nagy went on to express confidence that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and his staff would get Smith up to speed.
“Whenever that is, we’ll see,” Nagy said.
At this point, it would be surprising if Smith remained unsigned for any part of the regular season. He would have to be willing to forfeit game checks, and the Bears would have to accept missing out on his production in games that count.
But the gap between the sides must be bridged before then, and the lack of movement is hardly reassuring.
Smith’s holdout reached its 28th day as the Bears wrapped the Bourbonnais portion of summer and looked ahead to joint practices with the Broncos beginning Wednesday in Englewood, Colo.
Instead of fans getting to watch Smith’s diagnostic skills, instincts and hitting ability during a camp that featured three days with live tackling, his absence diverted public attention from quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s development in Nagy’s scheme and the positivity spawned by the overhauled group of pass catchers.
Smith’s defensive teammates were left to account for what he missed during 16 practices at ONU.
“Just communication with the players,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “Different players because people play different. You’ve got to get out here and get that aspect. … But we’ll get him right when he gets here.”
Trevathan believes Smith could make a positive impact in the opener, as long as he’s preparing for football and studying the defense during his holdout.
“You’ve got to be in shape, obviously,” Trevathan said. “You’ve got to get the plays. You’ve got to get the checks. You’ve got to get everything down pat. So hopefully he’s still working on some of that. I’ve been talking to him, and he’s in good spirits. He wants to be here with us, but that’s just something that has to get done.”
Participation report: Receiver Javon Wims participated in the non-padded practice about 15 hours after he injured his right quadriceps in Saturday night’s practice. “Wims bounced back pretty good,” Nagy said.
Cornerback Marcus Cooper also participated after bruising his right knee Saturday. Outside linebacker Isaiah Irving (ankle) and safety Deon Bush (hamstring) returned to practice.
The following players sat out: Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (groin) and Cre’Von LeBlanc (groin), offensive linemen Kyle Long (right ankle) and Hroniss Grasu (left calf), tight end Dion Sims (concussion), running back Benny Cunningham (shoulder) and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch (hamstring).