Chicago Bears ILB Trevathan returns to camp in limited role

BOURBONNAIS - Danny Trevathan missed four games last season, but the seventh-year veteran inside linebacker still led the Bears with 91 tackles; seeing him back at practice Monday, even in a very limited role, was encouraging.

"We all know he's a leader on that defense, and he's played in this game for a long time," coach Matt Nagy said. "When you have a guy that has the experience, the confidence and the playing demeanor that he has - any time you have that - we always welcome that back."

Trevathan has yet to participate in any team activities in training camp after suffering a hamstring injury while working out just prior to reporting. He won't play in the preseason-opening Hall of Fame Game Thursday in Canton, Ohio, against the Ravens. And it's doubtful the defensive leader will play in preseason Game Two a week later. But, this is his third year in coordinator Vic Fangio's defense, so that hardly matters.

That's not the case for first-round draft pick Roquan Smith, who was expected to start the season alongside Trevathan at the other ILB spot in the middle of the Bears' defense. The unsigned Smith missed his ninth training-camp practice Monday, and he's now the only NFL rookie who hasn't agreed to terms. At this stage of the stalemate, there is plenty of blame for both sides.

"He's missing out," Trevathan said. "But he's a smart player. I'm sure he'll come back in, and I'll help get him caught up, (or) whatever. I'll let that handle itself right now. We'll get him up to date.

"(But) there's a lot of stuff you can't get unless you're out there on that field; that's working with the guys next to you and communicating with the person that's going to be in with you. He's got some catching up to do, but we'll get him caught up, it's no problem."

It is at least becoming a problem for Smith, who has already missed practice time he can't get back. The longer he's out, the less chance he has to make an impact early on, which is what the Bears expected when they used the eighth overall pick to select him. Nagy has repeatedly said that jobs must be won, and that means Smith still has to beat out third-year veteran ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, who has looked good running with the first team.

John Timu has gotten most of the first-team reps next to Kwiatkoski, but Jonathan Anderson took most of those reps with the ones on Monday. Timu and Anderson are both fourth-year players, who have spent their entire NFL careers in Fangio's schemes, mostly as backups, but Timu has nine career starts, while Anderson has three.

Trevathan, as a team leader and someone who plays the same position as Smith, has been in contact with the rookie during his absence.

"I've been talking to him, just making sure as a person he was all right, (that) he's not fading away from the game that he loves," Trevathan said. "I just make sure that he's all right. I've been through some stuff. I'm pretty sure he wants to take care of himself, and he wants to get back in. I'm sure he's missing (this) just as much as we are (missing him)."

One of the reasons for the delay in Smith's arrival is debate over contract language that would ensure he doesn't lose guaranteed money as the result of a potential suspension for violating the league's new rule against initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. Even before the more stringent rule was enacted, Trevathan got slapped with a two-game suspension last year for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers WR Davante Adams, whose progress had already been stopped. The suspension was reduced to one game on appeal.

There has been some confusion over the new rule and how it will be enforced, including possible ejections and suspensions. But Trevathan says he's conversant with the new statute.

"I understand the rule; I was an example last year," he said. "They made it real clear what they want you to know (about) tackling, and I'm going to do my part as a player. The game's constantly changing, but we've gotta do what the league wants us to do right now, or that's money out of our pockets. We've gotta be smarter with it and get better with it."

Smith can begin doing that, too, as soon as he gets into camp.

• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.

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