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Who to believe, who to believe?
On one side, we have the sycophantic local media who write things like "Inside Matt Nagy's Beautiful Mind" and continue to assert that moving up to draft Mitch Trubisky was a good idea despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Those guys kept telling us that first-round draft pick and projected starter Roquan Smith would be in camp soon enough and there was nothing to worry about - just a little "language." Now they're reporting that Smith is seeking language in his contract that would protect him from losing guaranteed money if he breaks the new tackling rules often enough to get suspended.
On the other side, a bunch of national voices arguing that the Bears are blowing it again, arguing that wholly at fault in refusing to give Smith something that at least some other rookies have apparently already received. They are saying the Bears should cave and give Smith what he wants even if it means everyone else on the defense would want the same language when they sign their next contracts.
I have to say at this point, as loathe as I am to back usually pathetic Bears management, I find their case more persuasive.
That's right, I'm actually backing Bears management!
But then, so is curmudgeon Steve Rosenbloom, so I don't feel so all alone. He puts it nicely:
"[T]here are rules. For everybody. I don't know how a rookie thinks he deserves a Get Out Of Jail Free card."
And while it's hard to trust the likes of this front office, Bears management has already proven itself in a situation like the kind Smith fears by acting in good faith.
"Last year, [Danny] Trevathan was suspended two games for unnecessary roughness for leading with his helmet on a hard hit against Packers wide receiver Davante Adams. The suspension was reduced to one game upon appeal. Trevathan's hit on Adams is shown in the new rules video the NFL created for players as an example of a hit that would result in an ejection," the Tribune reports.
The Bears did not try to recoup guaranteed money from Trevathan after the suspension.
"I was happy that they were on my side," Trevathan said.
That doesn't guarantee future behavior, of course, but consider the overall implications of what Smith wants. Other rookies may have successfully had similar language to what Smith wants placed in their contracts but if it is good enough for rookies, why wouldn't it immediately become a part of veteran contracts as well? Sure, guaranteed money should be guaranteed money, but there is also a little concept known as accountability that needs to come into play. If your star linebacker - or anyone, really - goes and gets himself suspended, hurting the team, because he can't follow the rules, why should he continue to get paid?
In fact, shouldn't veterans, who have been tackling people a certain way in the NFL for years, be first in line for protections against monetary penalties tied to the new rules? After all, Smith's argument is that it's not yet known just how capriciously - this is the NFL - the new tackling rules will be enforced. It seems to me that's a much tougher proposition for veterans who are set in their ways then new players just coming into the league.
Mr. Pace hasn't done himself any favors by keeping so quiet on the specifics of the negotiations, which is par for the course for an executive who has so far been a miserable failure as a communicator. Pace should be doing everything he can to take the heat - and the questions - instead of letting rookie head coach Matt Nagy get put on the spot every day.
Sure, Pace has avoided a media war of words that could sour Smith on his new team, and vice versa, and by keeping the negotiation out of the press he may have give each side more room to negotiate. But he also has to be a big boy and step up to the plate and do more than just mouth platitudes. It's a needle that's totally threadable.
Could a compromise be reached? Sure. How about the Bears including language in Smith's contract protecting his guaranteed money just in his first year, while everyone is still figuring out how the new rules will play out? That seems like a hopeful path. Then again, on Tuesday morning Nagy described negotiations as at a "stalemate."
That does not bode well. We just reached the halfway point of training camp, and soon exhibition games will be upon us. The stories of holdout rookies reporting late and struggling are legion.
Then again, long holdouts are not automatic death sentences for rookie production. Optimists can point to their own stories, like that of Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who in 2016 sat out until the end of August, then missed the season's first four games with a pulled hamstring. Nonetheless, he went on to record 41 tackles that season, including a seriously impressive 10.5 sacks.
One thing we know for certain: stalemates are lame. Both sides need to continue to come up with alternative ideas that involve moving at least a little closer to the middle. Get to work fellas.More from Beachwood Sports »
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