Will Bears rookie Roquan Smith have an impact Week 1? Nagy doesn't know right now.
Of course Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy was glad to have first-round draft pick Roquan Smith at his first practice after he missed the first 29 days of training camp.
But Nagy wasn't going overboard about it, in deference to the 89 other players who've been sweating it out since July 20.
"I was happy; it helps us out," he said Tuesday. "It's obviously a key draft pick for us, but at the same time … he knows that he has a lot of catching up to do mentally and physically, so that'll be his biggest challenge."
The 6-foot-1, 236-pound inside linebacker, the eighth overall draft pick, is supposed to be an instant-impact player on a defense that was very good last year and is expecting to take another step forward.
He earned a reputation at Georgia as a difference maker vs. the run and as a weapon in pass coverage because of his rare combination of speed, power and instincts. But, after missing all 18 practices at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, it's debatable how much of an impact he can have in Week 1.
Nagy isn't sure.
"Maybe in a week, week and a half, I can answer that," the coach said after Tuesday's short outdoor practice on the new grass fields at Halas Hall. "I don't know right now. I've seen him out here with no pads on for an hour and a half. We'll see how that goes and obviously you hope so, right? (But) I don't think it's fair to the other guys, who have been out here battling each and every day. I go back to, 'You have to earn it and come out here and show it.'"
Shortly after Tuesday's practice, the Bears and Smith boarded a plane for Denver where they will hold joint practices with the Broncos on Wednesday and Thursday and then square off in their third preseason game Saturday night. Practicing against another team will give the Bears' coaches an idea of what kind of football shape Smith is in. But it's unlikely he'll play in the game, leaving him just two exhibition games to prepare for the regular season.
Third-year veteran ILB Nick Kwiatkoski is currently the Bears' other starter alongside seventh-year veteran Danny Trevathan. Though Kwiatkoski has 13 starts in his first two seasons and had a good camp, he's the player who would be displaced when Smith is up to speed in the defense. But Nagy has been adamant all along that the best player at every position will play, and that jobs will be earned.
"The dynamic isn't that hard," Nagy said. "We put the best players that are out there in every position. And we don't give a position to anybody -- no matter what position you are, who you are, what your name is, where you came from -- I don't care; we don't care. Earn it. When you do that it makes life real simple. You're honest with the guys. You tell them the truth. And if you play like crap on tape, you're not playing. If you play well on tape, you play."
Though the Bears' negotiations with Smith's agents could accurately be described as contentious, none of that matters to Nagy going forward. It was business as usual when Smith finally showed up at practice.
What were Nagy's first words to the tardy rookie?
"Welcome here," Nagy said. "Are you ready to play some ball?"
Smith's reply? "Yeah."
"It was really simple," the coach said. "We saw him for the first time, and we just kind of kept going. Not that nothing happened, but -- we're here. Why harp on what just happened. Let's go. You're here. Our team's here. That's all that matters. Put it to the side and let's go play football."
It's about time.
• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.