LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Midway through a 67-minute practice Thursday morning on the back fields of Halas Hall, Bears linebacker Roquan Smith walked to a far sideline and joined a group of injured teammates.
In the team's first practice since Smith was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list Wednesday afternoon, he wore his white No. 58 jersey but no helmet. Bears coach Matt Eberflus made it clear that he was expected to practice. Smith made the choice to not take the field.
Smith could now be subject to discipline from the Bears as his contract hold-in and absence from practice are no longer excused through his placement on the PUP list, which was considered a courtesy extended by general manager Ryan Poles amid contract negotiations between the sides. After the 25-year-old Smith publicly requested a trade out of Chicago on Tuesday morning and expressed his frustration with the organization in a statement, it appears the goodwill from Poles is now gone.
The Bears could elect to fine Smith for each practice he chooses to watch instead of join. It’s unclear whether that will be the course of action from Poles.
“We expect all our healthy players to practice,” Eberflus said of Smith. “And that was his decision.”
Eberflus deferred to Smith for further comment on the saga, saying to "ask him." The team didn't make Smith available to the media.
What comes next between Smith and the Bears is unclear. On Tuesday, Poles responded to Smith’s statement by expressing his hope that the sides can still reach a long-term contract extension. After reading that Smith believed there was a lack of “good faith” in the negotiations, Poles was clearly disappointed.
“My feelings for Roquan haven’t changed at all,” Poles said. “I think he’s a very good football player. I love the kid. I love what he’s done on the field, which makes me really disappointed with where we’re at right now. I thought we’d be in a better situation.
“It’s difficult. There are emotions involved. It’s tough.”
Smith is representing himself in contract negotiations as he has bypassed the opportunity to hire an agent. It’s a factor that Poles has admitted makes the process more complicated. With a hired representative negotiating on behalf of a player, emotions are mostly removed from the bargaining table.
Without an agent to inform the Bears of his desires and intentions, Smith has been forced to communicate those to the team on his own. Eberflus and the team believed he would be back on the practice field Thursday, but he wasn't.
“In any relationship you need communication,” Eberflus said. “So, I would just say that.
“I expect all healthy guys to practice.”
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.