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Roquan Smith unlikely to make debut against Chiefs

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A light practice week built on precaution means the Bears’ first round pick likely won’t yet play in his first game against the Chiefs. So what is his timeline?

NFL: Chicago Bears-Minicamp Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

You won’t know whether Roquan Smith is officially playing or not playing against the Chiefs in the all-important third preseason game this Saturday until close to game time. That’s because the Bears prefer it that way. Given a light practice week due to a suffered tight hamstring, and Matt Nagy’s evolving stance throughout the week: don’t be surprised if the debut of Chicago’s No. 8 overall pick’s is held off.

According to a report from Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears head coach Matt Nagy sounded as non-committal as possible in officially ruling Smith out for Saturday. The 21-year-old rookie has been dealing with that mentioned hamstring tightness since Tuesday.

Not the greatest sign of progress being made to play in any game.

“It might be tough,” the Bears coach said. “I think, realistically, that would be hard. You saw (Thursday) with where he’s at. Again, the biggest thing with him right now is just trying to be smart. I don’t think we want to be foolish in trying to force something back. We just have to outweigh the pros and cons of that.”

This being the preseason, the Bears weren’t going to take Smith’s small hamstring issue lightly and risk regular season games. A small hamstring injury can quickly evolve into something that robs a young player of a good portion of his rookie year. Nagy himself said that if this was during the regular season, Smith would’ve “most likely” still practiced. So now wasn’t the time to take that risk.

Smith, who ended a 29-day holdout last week and featured in joint practices against the Denver Broncos, has to this juncture only fully participated in one full-padded practice and one in shells. The 2017 Butkus Award Winner probably doesn’t need the game against the Chiefs to still play against the Packers in Week 1. There obviously is the possibility of featuring in that fifth preseason exhibition against the Bills next Thursday. That’s with a special exception of needed snaps for Smith being made.

What Smith needs more than anything to make his debut in September, is more practice time. With a limited amount of practices left before Chicago visits Lambeau Field in a couple of weeks, that clock is ticking.

The Bears have continually stated for the entire team this preseason that the “goal is the opener” meaning that opener in Green Bay. Jeopardizing that is an ideal they don’t want to disrupt. Smith has to actually be healthy before the Bears worry about ruining any plan.

Robert is an editor, writer, and producer for Windy City Gridiron, The Rock River Times, The Athletic Chicago, and other fine publications. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski and contact him by email at robertpoduski@gmail.com.