Bears coach Matt Nagy confirmed Monday that inside linebacker Roquan Smith suffered a torn pectoral muscle in last Thursday night's win over the Cowboys and will be placed on injured reserve.
"That's unfortunate for him," Nagy said. "He's really putting together a good year. But he'll bounce back."
Smith heads to IR leading the Bears with 100 tackles this season in 12 games. The 2018 first-round draft pick from Georgia has also registered two sacks, one interception and five tackles-for-loss.
Smith had been playing his best football of the season over the last month or so, recording at least 10 tackles in four of five games, including a career-high 16 stops in a Thanksgiving win in Detroit. Smith also compiled two sacks and two tackles-for-loss against the Lions, becoming only the third player in NFL history with at least 15 tackles and two sacks in a game.
"I really thought that you felt him, especially here in the last several games, really turn it on, really playing fast," Nagy said. "He's always had that. Every play that he gets, every game that he plays for the rest of his career, he's only going to get better and better, in my opinion. … I like where he's at; it's just unfortunate that it ended like that."
Smith was selected by the Bears with the eighth pick in last year's draft. Despite missing all of training camp and the preseason due to a contract impasse and a sore hamstring, he led the Bears with 121 tackles last season, three shy of Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's team rookie record set in 2000.
"Last year coming in, missing training camp and then being a rookie with an experienced defense, that can be challenging, and he did a good job," Nagy said.
"And then coming into this year, you could sense that his personality, you could see it extend a little bit more. You could see the relationships he had with those guys. You could see Danny Trevathan really take him under his wing. That was very important. He's a guy that's really been growing.
"Coach [Mark] DeLeone's done a really good job at developing these inside linebackers. So I really am excited with our future with him and we've just got to get him back on track now health-wise."
Since joining the Bears, Smith has displayed excellent speed and instincts.
"One thing you can say about Roquan is he will run sideline-to-sideline," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. "I mean, he just has a pair of wheels on him that just won't stop. That's one of the things that separates him is he can get anywhere you need him to be, whether it's coverage or chasing a running back in the flats. It's pretty impressive."
When Smith returns next year for his third NFL season and second under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, the experience the Georgia product has gained figures to help him develop into an even better player.
"You see it on tape; he's really moving fast, flying around making tackles," Nagy said. "He's always had instincts. That's been his biggest strength, and he's violent. He's a violent tackler and I think now as we go here it's just going to be focusing in on having the game slow down, just like it would for a quarterback, slow down a little bit there in the middle of the field."
The Bears are confident that Smith possesses the potential to become an impact player like Hicks and perennial Pro Bowl outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
"It's there," Nagy said. "I know a lot of defensive coordinators that have come up to me and explained to me how bad they wished he was on their team and the future that he has ahead of him. Now, there's a lot of hard work involved to get to that point. But when you look at the traits that he has and his mental ability, the want, he's got it all."