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Bears Should Go Distance to Extend LB Roquan Smith

Editor’s note: Bears linebacker Roquan Smith returned to practice on Saturday after “holding in” and seeking a longterm contract extension. Smith said he was going to “bet on myself as I’ve always done.” Should Chicago do all it can to get a new deal done before the linebacker hits unrestricted free agency in 2023? Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt shared his thoughts: 

 

I think they should (give him a new deal). I would take it to the max. 

Ryan Poles, the Bears GM, said, “We know the number that we can go to and that’s all we’re gonna do to sign him back.” And I get that part. If his number’s crazy, then you gotta move on. The Bears have enough needs that they could get good players or draft picks for him (in a trade).

But you have to keep this in mind: This is a kind of (Bears) defense that we ran at the Cowboys and Dolphins. It’s a Tony Dungy defense. It’s Lovie Smith. In other words, four down lineman, and your middle linebacker is a key guy. 

Think of the Tampa Bay Bucs back in their Super Bowl year (2002). Derrick Brooks was the main guy. The Bears, when they were one of the best defenses in the league and went to the Super Bowl (2006), it was Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. The whole time I was at the Dolphins, it was Zach Thomas. And these guys were every-down linebackers. 

And Roquan Smith has more than 100 tackles every year he’s been in the league. He’s had interceptions, he’s had sacks. He can do it all and he never comes off the field. So in this scheme of defense where you’re not blitzing a lot, your linemen are fast and they’re coming up the field, that middle linebacker, in my opinion, is a lot more valuable in this type of scheme than what he would be if they were a big pressure team, where everybody’s just blitzing and you’re bringing in 5, 6, 7 guys.

So, I would take it as far as you can take it to get him back. He’s been a great guy. He’s been attending charity things in downtown Chicago. … The whole thing is kind of strange. Maybe the Bears playing great defense against Seattle (on Friday) will be a little bit of an eye-opener and he’ll say, “You know what, maybe they don’t need me, let’s get this done.’

He’s a top five middle linebacker in the NFL, in my opinion.

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Dave Wannstedt: Matthew Stafford’s Elbow Pain Not Yet Cause For Concern

The Los Angeles Rams stirred up some controversy this week when it was announced that star quarterback Matthew Stafford was dealing with elbow pain and they were continuing to limit his reps in training camp.

Rams Head Coach Sean McVay called the issue a “tricky deal” and something that was, in his experience, not normal for a quarterback. In fact, McVay likened it more to something an MLB pitcher might experience instead.

McVay also stated that the way they are handling this issue is totally new ground for him and that Stafford’s experience and mental toughness helps make McVay more confident in the team’s plan to rest and help Stafford heal.

McVay’s tough decision

Former NFL Head Coach and Contributor to The 33rd Team Dave Wannstedt believes that this is only an issue for the team if it reduces Stafford’s effectiveness or if Stafford can’t handle the pain.

“When you’ve got a guy like Stafford where he’s already limited, it’s not something he’s going to just work out in practice. It comes down to this for me: One, is he still effective throwing the ball? Two, can he tolerate the pain? Three, Is this something that’s going to get worse? That’s the criteria that Sean McVay will have to judge making a decision about his quarterback.”

Nothing new for the team

Stafford has been battling elbow pain even going into last season, when he led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory. The Rams have been monitoring this issue and came into the offseason with a plan to help alleviate the pain Stafford is feeling. While he has thrown in red zone and individual drills, Stafford did not participate in team drills for the last several practices.

McVay reassured Rams fans that the precautions are simply because the team cannot predict how Stafford’s arm will feel by midseason and want to control what they can before the season. Stafford was bothered by the arm pain last season but obviously couldn’t take days off.

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Training Camp Confidential: Early Run-Ins With Big Names

When you look back on favorite training camp memories, it can often be the biggest guys on the field and biggest personalities in the locker room who make for some of the most interesting stories.

When I think back to my time as a coach at training camp, two of my favorite memories were created by guys people across the country knew—specifically because of their size. Those guys gave me a couple of my earliest and fondest memories in the NFL in general and then as a head coach.

In 1989, I followed Jimmy Johnson from the University of Miami to the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. It was my first year as a coach in the league. And while we were at training camp, we ran things like we had at Miami.

It didn’t take long to get a reminder that we were in the NFL, though. One of our biggest names walked right in to Jimmy’s office one day and dropped a check on his desk. That wasn’t something I was used to seeing in the college world, and when I heard the reason why, it got even funnier.

It wasn’t long before I got one of my favorite memories as a head coach at camp, either. In fact, it ended up being my first decision I made as coach of the Chicago Bears—all about running a warm-up lap on the first day of camp, involving maybe the most famous name in the NFL at the time.

Just a couple of great stories from camp that I think back on as teams start camp every year.

Training Camp Confidential

The 33rd Team has unprecedented access to executives, coaches and players and wants to provide an in-depth, never-before-seen look into the best stories and memories from NFL Training Camps. Stay tuned to our Training Camp Page for more great stories like this one. 

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