Matt Nagy revealed Tuesday that rookie linebacker Roquan Smith likely will be held out of Thursday night's preseason finale against the Bills. But the Bears coach remains optimistic that the first-round draft pick will be able to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 9 in Green Bay.
"Roquan had a better day today [in practice], so that's two good days in a row as far as his health is concerned," Nagy said. "It's looking like for him this week against Buffalo, we're probably going to end up keeping him out and not playing him. But that's not a negative that we're keeping him out of the game. He's in a good place right now."
If Smith sits out Thursday night as expected, he will have missed all five of the Bears' preseason games. The eighth overall pick in the draft ended a 29-day contract holdout Aug. 14, was held out of an exhibition contest four days later in Denver and then began to experience hamstring tightness last week in practice.
Asked if missing the preseason finale will preclude Smith from playing in the Bears' Week 1 Sunday night clash with the Packers, Nagy said: "No, I don't think so. I think there's still a good chance there. [It's] day-by-day with him. Right now we've stacked two in a row for the positive, for the good. Let's just keep that thing going. If he's able to play and we feel good about it, trust me, we'll give him an opportunity to get in there."
While Nagy is optimistic that Smith will be able to make his NFL debut against the Packers, the Bears coach conceded that the team will be cautious with the rookie linebacker to minimize the risk of him suffering a setback.
"I don't want to get to a spot where we quote-unquote rush him back and then all of a sudden he comes back and, boom, you just lost another whatever six-to-eight weeks," Nagy said. "I don't want that."
Veteran outside linebacker Sam Acho is confident that Smith will be able to contribute despite missing the entire preseason.
"Since OTAs, maybe people forgot, but he was here for like a month-and-a-half and we were gelling, hanging out," Acho said. "He understood the defense. He has the playbook and he gets it. He's a guy who keeps his body in great shape. Obviously reps are important. We get that. He's been getting those [in practice] and he's been getting the mental reps as well. Sometimes those are huge, too.
"Roquan's ready. Roquan is a baller. You saw when he came in in OTAs. The first day he picked up the defense; making plays, interceptions, forced fumbles, sideline-to-sideline. I believe in him. I know he's ready."