Chicago Bears: Former coach Dave Wannstedt rips Roquan Smith over holdout

(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM) /

Former Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt visited the team’s training camp in Bourbonnais on Friday and made it clear he was not happy that linebacker Roquan Smith has yet to sign a contract.

Former Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt showed up to Bears training camp on Friday and ended up speaking with a group of reporters. Wannstedt was clearly not okay with rookie linebacker Roquan Smith’s contract holdout. Here’s what he had to say via the Chicago Sun-Times:

"It really doesn’t make much sense…for a rookie to hold out because of some fine print, it’s pretty selfish from an agent standpoint to do that. This kid needs to be here. He needs to be practicing. These are valuable days. They play a preseason game a week from now. And you do not get these days back."

Wannstedt isn’t remembered very fondly by Bears fans for his time at the helm of the team in the mid-to-late 1990s. He coached for six seasons with a record of 40-56 overall, and led the team to two playoff appearances with one playoff win overall. He has somewhat reinvented himself as a football analyst for Fox Sports and 670 The Score (WSCR-AM), but fans don’t forget his failures.

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Smith’s holdout becomes a more pressing issue as each day passes that he hasn’t signed a contract. Smith is represented by the same agency (CAA) as Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa, a third-overall pick in 2016 who didn’t sign until late August. The Bears are hoping to avoid a similar situation, and need Smith in camp since linebacker Danny Trevathan is currently injured.

Wannstedt also let reporters know that he has experience dealing with this sort of dispute. When he coached the Bears in 1998, they drafted running back Curtis Enis in the first round. Enis ended up holding out for almost a month, missing a large chunk of training camp and, according to Wannstedt, damaging his future with the team. The former coach recalled the situation on Friday:

"I’ll tell you how damaging it was. We opened up the season at home against Jacksonville. I think it was 90 degrees that day. And we were down on the goal line. I remember him coming out of the game because he was exhausted. And we couldn’t use him at the end when we were down at the goal line. The first thing I thought of: if he was with us from day one in training camp, his whole physical conditioning would have been different and we could have closed that game out. We ended up losing in the last minute of the game."

Wannstedt may be correct in his assessment of the Enis holdout, but I’m not sure if Enis deserves to shoulder all the blame for a team loss in 1998. Wannstedt has always been outspoken, but it’s clear that Smith’s holdout is a different situation. There’s some mystery swirling about why Smith hasn’t signed yet, and the speculation is that it’s not entirely over money.

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Whatever the reason for Smith’s holdout, it’s clear the Bears need him in practice as soon as possible. Smith was slated to be a key part of the defense this season even as a rookie. The team is set to play in the Hall of Fame Game on August 2nd, and there’s little chance Smith will be on the field even if he does sign in the next few days. Here’s hoping this issue is resolved shortly.