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Roquan Smith: Negotiations over, 'betting on myself'

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Roquan Smith explained why he ended his "hold-in" and practiced Saturday for the first time since the start of training camp, telling reporters that negotiations for a contract extension are over and he will play out the final season of his five-year deal.

"I'm just shifting my focus to the season and more so just focused on being the best teammate I can be to those guys in the locker room," the Bears linebacker said. "It's my 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, and the negotiations are over right now."

Smith had participated in the entire offseason program but opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He was removed from the PUP list Aug. 10 but had not practiced until Saturday.

Asked what led to his decision to return, Smith said: "Well, obviously, the talks didn't get too far, and it didn't end in the way that I wanted them to end. And it's basically like, hey, I know at the end of the year, it's going to be a big season for myself. And also, at the end of the season, there's a lot of different directions things could go, so I know I need to put myself and my body in the best possible situation to succeed, and I feel like with this time that I have, it'll be enough time for me to prepare myself for the season."

Smith thanked those who supported him during his hold-in.

"I'm grateful for the fans," he said, "all the loyal fans and everyone, the players as well in the locker room and the city of Chicago that stood behind me throughout this process. It means a lot."

Smith, who had been conditioning with the strength staff on the side during the practices he missed, participated solely in individual drills Saturday. His workload will gradually increase to include 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

"Roquan Smith was out there today and we were excited, super excited about that," said coach Matt Eberflus. "We're just ramping him up to play football, and there's a process to that. We're in that process right now."

Smith, a 2018 first-round pick from Georgia, doesn't expect to receive any additional contract offers from the Bears this year.

"There's no more offers at this time and I don't think there will be any during the season," he said. "My full focus has shifted to the season … It's been an amazing four years and hey, five, why not make it a little more special? That's my plan."

Asked if that plan consists of playing out his contract this year and then signing with another team in 2023, Smith said: "My full intention is to play this season and whatever happens, happens. Whatever it is, I have to go through this season, I'll do it chin up, chest out, sunsets, no regrets, baby."

Asked about the possibility of the Bears placing a franchise tag on him next year, Smith said: "I'll get there when I get there. I think the franchise tag should be a nice number next year, whatever it is."

A reporter mentioned that Smith could double his 2022 salary if the Bears franchise him in 2023.

"That wouldn't be bad," he said. "But, hey, I'll get there when I get there. I'm more so focused on this season and just going out there with my teammates, betting on myself like I do each and every year, and double-downing on Sunday."

During his media session Saturday, Smith also explained why he put out a statement Aug. 9 demanding a trade and claiming the Bears don't value him and weren't negotiating in good faith.

"It was very emotional for me because normally I tend to not voice my opinion as much, but I thought it was time for me to do that," Smith said. "There was a lot of different things going on out there. A lot of different [speculation] and like things of that nature, and I just wanted the fans to know and the great city of Chicago to know what was really going on since no one really knew."

Smith revealed that the Bears did not fine him for not practicing after he was removed from the PUP list.

Asked if he felt Smith is disgruntled, Eberflus said: "No, not at all. He's been engaged. He's been in the meetings, thoroughly there, mentally there, asking questions in the meetings, helping the younger players when he's been out. He's been doing all that. He's been a pro that way, for sure."

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