With Roquan Smith on the field, evolution of Bears defense begins
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In many respects, the first day of joint workouts between the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos turned into a combination of the epilogue to the Roquan Smith contract saga and the beginning of the evolution of the Bears' defense into the NFL's next "Linebacker U."
Smith, Danny Trevathan and Leonard Floyd visited with the smallish contingent of Chicago news media after practice at the Broncos' UCHealth Training Center, and in his daily post-practice news conference coach Matt Nagy had words for all of them.
The practice itself came off with nothing even hinting at a skirmish of any kind that Broncos coach Vance Joseph and Nagy are so determined to avoid this week, and it appeared to be a particularly good day for the Bears' offense and Mitch Trubisky, who all played well against a Broncos defense that was third in total defense last season, fourth against the run and fifth against the pass.
But most eyes were on Smith in his No. 58 jersey, and there was no obvious indication it was his first full tilt go as a pro.
"I felt great," Smith said when it was over. "That's the way football is played.
"It was great just being back out in pads and getting after it and doing a little poppin'."
Smith again refused to offer any insight or comment on what actually happened with his contract, and I suspect that's how it's going to stay and we will all now move on.
But Trevathan wasn't shy about offering his viewpoint.
"I'm proud because he made a decision and stuck with it," Trevathan said. "You've just got to focus on you sometimes. you only get one chance to do that, and I told him, 'Do it the right way. Your heart will never lead you wrong.'
" 'Do the job and then get here so we can win some games.'"
Nagy just seemed relieved the holdout was over and is not ready to start obsessing about where Smith will be in Week 1.
"When we get to that part of the season, the beginning of the season, then we're going to have to get together and decide, No. 1, did he earn it? And No. 2, can he do it? And No. 3, is it the best thing for us?"
Floyd said just having Smith in the huddle already has made a difference.
"Oh, yeah, it definitely gave us a boost. We've got all our guys here and knowing we can all come out together and get better."
What has been lost on many in all the focus on Smith's contract are the strong camps being turned in by Trevathan and Floyd as each tries to return from season-ending injuries.
Trevathan sees a star developing in Floyd.
"He's groomed, man," Trevathan said. "He's still fast; he's still getting off, he's more disruptive.
"I see him trying to create more big plays instead of just sacks. Flo's guarding, dropping back. He's doing everything that he's supposed to do even better now.
"He's feeling more comfortable. I'm just happy with the direction he's going. It's going to make our defense even better with Flo flying around."
Trevathan, who expects to see his first preseason action Saturday night against the Broncos, also is hoping Nick Kwiatkoski isn't being overlooked and wonders just how good these Bears will be now that they're fully loaded in the middle.
"Nick's smart," Trevathan said. "He's a football player, man, and a lot of people don't give Nick the credit he deserves.
"He's smart; he's instinctive; he could play anywhere in this league, man. He could start anywhere. And you know when 44's out there, you're going to know it."
Asked if he foresees a day when all these linebackers -- Trevathan, Smith, Kwiatkoski and Floyd -- are on the field together, Trevathan raised his eyebrows, drew a big laugh and said, "You never know, but we've got some athletes. We've got some dogs; we've got some people that hit and love this defense and fly around at LB, so we've got a lot of people over there.
"I'm sure we have something. …"
• Hub Arkush, the executive editor of Pro Football Weekly, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.