I think I can speak for just about every member of the Chicago media and every Bears fan everywhere when I say, first and foremost, we certainly hope all is well with Roquan Smith and everyone he holds dear and/or close to him.Beyond that it is my job to point out that, unintentionally or not, whatever personal issues he is dealing with have put him and the Bears organization in a very difficult spot.
I can tell you that in 42 years now on the NFL beat and almost all of them covering the Chicago Bears, this is one of the strangest stories I’ve ever seen — and not because of what it is or what it is about, because we have no idea.
It is unprecedented because the Bears media as a group is outstanding at what we do and I’ve never seen a story buttoned up as completely as this one’s been by Smith and the team.
I feel safe in reporting that it has nothing to do with the much rumored Ferrari accident and alleged DUI, as most of us have multiple sources with local police forces and courts and there would have to be some record of a driving incident or accident, which are just not that tough to track down.
Can I rule out another oft-repeated rumor that it has something to do with his unwillingness to wear the throwback jerseys from a time when pro football was segregated and minorities were unwelcome?
Not completely, but I am completely comfortable in saying it’s stupid on its face because if that were his point, what would it accomplish without letting people know about it?
If the story could get any stranger, I’m told it did Tuesday when Smith was in the locker room briefly during the open locker room period for the media before leaving without speaking to anyone.
It’s his locker room and if the team is supporting him — as I suspect we all hope it would be — he has every right to be there, but why would he be there at a time specifically created for the media to talk to players if he is unwilling to speak?
A number of analysts and talk radio folks have suggested that head coach Matt Nagy did not do him any favors Monday by not offering any defense for him on any issue while refusing to comment at all in response to 12 different questions other than to say personal issue.
I beg to differ, and this is the best example of the awful spot this has put the team in.
Clearly, Nagy’s position is what many of us identify as the “Belichick approach,” which is say absolutely nothing about anything when you prefer not to talk, don’t worry about what anybody thinks of you for dummying up and at least you know you can’t make things any worse.
Some of you would have liked Nagy to at least rule out some things that it’s not about, but there is a huge problem with that approach.
Should Nagy offer any insight at all about any avenue of this situation, it becomes an immediate invite to additional questions about that particular subject at a time when Smith and the Bears are doing everything they can to say as little as possible and avoid it becoming any more of a distraction than it already is.
And the catch 22 the Bears are in is the harder they try to keep it from being a distraction, the bigger distraction it becomes.
I can tell you what is coming next because if someone else doesn’t get there first, I will be doing what I can to find out Wednesday whether Smith is accompanying the team to London when it departs Thursday evening.
The answer won’t tell us anymore one way or the other about what’s going on with Smith, but again, our job, my job is to find out when the Bears will have one of the best young linebackers in the NFL back on the field, and I can’t think of any reasons we in the media shouldn’t continue to do our jobs.
I do hope all of us will continue to work with the utmost respect for the young man’s well being. That would appear to be the least we can do.