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Roquan Smith ends holdout, signs contract

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Roquan Smith’s contract holdout is officially over.

The impasse between the Bears and their first-round draft pick ended Tuesday after 29 days when the inside linebacker from Georgia signed a four-year deal.

“We’re looking forward to Roquan joining our team and getting him prepared for the 2018 season,” said general manager Ryan Pace.

After Smith put his name on the dotted line Tuesday, he participated in a walkthrough practice and traveled with the Bears to Denver, where they’ll conduct joint practices with the Broncos Wednesday and Thursday before playing a preseason game Saturday night.

“It was great just being back out here with my guys, running around and just enjoying the fellowship,” Smith said following the walkthrough. “All the guys were happy to have me back. I was happy to see those guys as well.”

During his holdout, Smith regularly worked out at his alma mater in Athens, Ga., while remaining confident that a deal would be struck. “I just kept my faith in my agent and Mr. Pace that they would get everything situated,” Smith said.

Asked if he regretted the holdout because it lasted so long, Smith said: “No, that’s just the business side of things. It is what it is. I’m just happy to be here now.”

The Bears view Smith as a speedy and tenacious sideline-to-sideline three-down defender who excels against the run as well as in pass coverage. Last season as a junior he was voted first-team All-American, won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Smith helped Georgia reach the CFP national title game last season, starting all 15 games and leading the Bulldogs with 137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles-for-loss and 20 quarterback hits. He was named MVP of the SEC Championship Game and Defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in the CFP semifinal after registering 11 tackles in a win over Oklahoma.

Smith enhanced his already-strong draft stock at the NFL Combine, running a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, the second fastest time among linebackers.

The 6-1, 236-pounder impressed Bears coaches and teammates during offseason workouts.

“He’s fast, he’s smart and he’s got good instincts,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said May 30 after an OTA practice. “Hopefully he’ll be able to transfer all of that to this level as well.”

After sitting out four weeks of training camp and two preseason games, Smith will now have to make up for the time he missed. On Tuesday, coach Matt Nagy said that had the holdout lasted any longer, Smith might not have been ready to play in the Sept. 9 season opener in Green Bay.

“It was probably pretty close,” Nagy said. “If it would have stretched out any further, it would have been difficult. But now where we’re at, we feel like it’s realistic. But he’s got to put in the work, as do all the other players.

“I think one of the greatest things we do as a team and as an organization is we focus about the ‘we’ rather than the ‘me,’ and that’s as real as you want to take it. That’s where we’re at, and he knows that. It’s been loud and clear. So he’ll come in and work hard, and the rest is on him.”

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