Bears confirm new helmet rule is contributing to Roquan Smith’s holdout


The NFL’s new rule against initiating contact by lowering the helmet has directly contributed to the lengthy contract dispute between the Bears and their first-round draft pick, linebacker Roquan Smith.

PFT previously explained that Smith could be concerned that if he’s suspended under the new rule, the Bears could void the guarantees in his contract, and Smith and his agents are seeking protections against that. On Saturday at training camp, Bears head coach Matt Nagy confirmed that’s an issue in the lengthy contract dispute.

Nagy said Smith’s desire to have financial protections against the helmet rule is “part of the issue with it,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Nagy added that “very few” players in the league have such protections in their contracts. But that doesn’t mean Smith and his agents are wrong to seek those protections. Given how little we know about how strictly the NFL is going to enforce the new rule, it’s smart of Smith and his camp to be thinking about the possibility that any linebacker, in the normal course of doing his job, could get suspended under the new rule.

Eventually, one side is likely to budge, and Smith is either going to get those protections in his contract or he’s going to sign his deal and get into camp. That it’s gone on this long is an unintended consequence of the league’s new rule.

53 responses to “Bears confirm new helmet rule is contributing to Roquan Smith’s holdout

  1. Let’s see if I understand. Smith will sign his contract if he doesn’t have to play by the rules? His concern is probably contractual playing time vs. suspension time. Bears should allow him one forgiveness suspension like car insurance offer accident forgiveness. If he repeatedly offends the rule and is frequently suspended then it’s on him. I’m not sure I agree with new rule but for Pete’s sake the rule is merely to protect his brain.

  2. The fact that the Bears are unwilling to offer the protections Smith’s camp is asking for means they are justified in asking for them.

  3. I’m with the player on this one… rule is unclear and nebulous enough on its own… not to mention no one knows how strictly they’re going to enforce it.

  4. Just the first chapter in a long novel of complaints about this new rule. Wait until teams lose their best players in critical games because of a strict interpretation of this rule, chaos will be common place.

  5. Well Mr. Smith, you have two options:

    1 – learn how to tackle with your arms and torso instead of trying to be a battering ram and be paid millions

    2 – get a day job like the rest of us

    Your call.

  6. This is actually a smart thing. Arbitrary rule enforcement is really a signature move for the officials and NFL in general. Giving Smith these guarantees would allow him to really play with reckless abandon, which is good for the team.

  7. NFL will take a dim view of teams who in effect financially guarantee a player suspended for making illegal hits. Whether you agree with a particular rule or not, suspensions (& all their potential consequences) is pretty much the only thing that make players pay attention – they just laugh at most fines.

  8. “very few” players in the league have such protections in their contracts”

    Given the the rule is brand new thats not surprising. It’s not a strong argument against a player wanting such protections. I’m usually not to sympathetic to rookies holding out on stuff to start their careers but in this case I side with Smith. Frankly with the way the NFL has been so willing to be so arbirary and inconsistent with how they apply rules it makes sense that players might want protections for their income from any front office wackiness. I could see them wanting more clarity in their contracts going forward.

  9. I don’t blame Roquan Smith whatsoever, who in the right mind would leave the faith of rather they would get their guaranteed money or not in the hand of the officials and NFL? Because essentially that what it will come down to, trusting the officials and NFL for how they will officiate the helmet rule. For years just look at how they handled the catch rule, so I have no faith they can properly officiate the helmet rule.

    Smith could be suspended for incidental helmet to helmet contact because the officials and NFL misjudge a hit in a physical sport were helmets will come into contact with other helmets. Which he can then have his guarantees in his contract voided because of it.

  10. Wondering why this is an issue with the Bears and hasn’t come up with other teams. Is it this player’s specific agent or have other teams not made this an issue?

  11. Going into the draft I thought Smith would go down as the best player from the class. Now it seems he has a pretty smart agent behind him to look out for him financially from the unbelievably arbitrary nature of the NFL’s penalty enforcement.

  12. Who does CAA all represent? Is this their standard request for all their defensive rookies? If it is, that’s one thing, but if it’s just Roquan, and he gets that deal, their other clients are going to be mad as hell.

  13. CAA got the waiver for Edmunds from the Bills. Leave it to the NFL to institute a rule that’s not clear with little knowledge from the actual teams and players as to how it’s going to be implemented without some fall out. Can’t blame Smith or Edmunds for wanting some protection since their position is the one that’s most affected by the rule change.

  14. Ok fine Mr. Smith. The bears give you what you want, and in exchange, you waive any and all future claims of injury against the NFL and the Bears.
    So if, when you become a vegetable, you and your family will have no right whatsoever to sue the NFL and/or the Bears.
    Because YOU want to tackle in an unsafe manner.
    If players can demand protections then so can NFL teams.
    In fact I’d argue that players are free to enjoy illegal drugs and PEDs and there is ZERO protections for the TEAM when the player gets busted for his choice. Sure the player might gets suspended and lose some money, but the TEAM has to comment to the media on how they are handling the situation, the TEAM has to sign a replacement player and guarantee his salary, etc.
    IF Smith demands “fairness” then allow the same principle to apply to both sides.

  15. I thought all contracts had to be approved by the NFL and I would think that they would disallow such a contract clause effectively negating fines. I will bet that Nambung Suh and Vontez Burrfect would like a clause like that.

  16. I will reserve judgement on Roquan, but his agency is killing him in the short term. I think someone who holds favor with Roquan is the problem here and he needs to take control of the situation.

  17. Just FYI, the last few “stud” LBs out of the SEC, specifically Georgia…have been epic busts:
    Leonard Floyd
    Jarvis Jones
    David Pollack
    Boss Bailey
    Kendrell Bell
    Other SEC schools: Bud Dupree (UK), every LB from Alabama or Auburn.

    So the writing is already on the wall for Smith. He might as well be slapped with the bust label right now. Clearly his attitude shows exactly where his priorities are.

  18. So let me get this straight:
    1. Players willingly accept the risks to accept a salary in exchange for playing a violent game.
    2. Lawyers a money-grab opportunity and partner with the NFLPA to sue the NFL on behalf of players citing the NFL & NFL franchises liability in protecting players on the field.
    3. In response, the NFL and its franchises institute rules and policies in order to protect players and minimize the legal liability for the NFL.
    4. Players (e.g. Smith) say NOOOOO I WANT to go helmet to helmet and not be punished for it.
    5. The media, the NFLPA, and agents all side with Smith and demand that players not be punished for violating the rules.
    6. In the 2018 season Smith plays recklessly, gets fined, suspended, and suffers concussions. The media excoriates the NFL for enforcing its rules and disciplining Smith.
    7. In 2020 Smith retires citing too many concussions and blames the FNL for not “doing enough” to protect him from himself. The media supports Smith, of course, and demands that the NFL do “more” to protect players.

    It’s a vicious circle that is enabled by the agents, evil lawyers (I’ve never heard of a non-evil lawyer), the NFLPA, and the main culprit, the media.

  19. I understand looking for those protections. If I were the bears I’d offer those protections for year 1. I figure by that point if you are getting suspended for this rule over and over then they shouldnt have to pay you.

  20. Owners are bags. They just want a built in out if he stinks. He’s probaly already agreed to setoffs, you can’t give him this one bears? Really?

  21. For everyone saying play by the rules and stop crying, could you explain exactly how the helmet rule works? The rest of us are confused.

  22. This is like real-life laws. A person is busted for weed. Potheads cry that weed should be legal and blame the police. The blame should lie with the politicians who WROTE the law.
    The same principle should apply here. Players sued the NFL for concussions. The NFL HAD to minimize its legal liability so helmets were improved and new rules were put into place as a result. Now players complain that they don’t know how to tackle without using their helmets.
    Who is to blame here? The PLAYERS of course. If they (players and the NFLPA) didn’t sue the NFL, these rules wouldn’t exist, and players could beat each other up all they want.
    So spare me all the anti-NFL rhetoric.
    Either players want to play or they don’t.
    Jack Lambert is 100% right in his statement that QBs should wear skirts…only that would apply to 100% of NFL players today.

  23. Every player who signed a deal after this dumb new rule was put in place without any actual guidance on how it will be implemented was stupid for not looking at these types of protections.
    Let’s say a veteran safety signs a 3 year $15 million dollar deal with $7 due at signing, but could lose those $7 if he gets suspended for a rule he doesn’t know, nor does he know how it’ll be practiced by officials or the league in discipline. Team looks for payback on signing bonus. Why not look for protections.
    It’s not off field issues he’s looking for guaranteed money protections from, it’s for his on field play that could result in a suspension without actually knowing what would initiate that suspension.
    Let’s just say the first player suspended under this new rule is Eric Berry (just saying).
    Should the team be able to go after monies paid at signing due to him breaking a rule that got him suspended that wasn’t even implemented when he signed the extension???
    For new signings, why take the risk without those protections in place?

  24. The NFL won’t make it to 2040. By that time the NFL will cease to exist as we know it. Owners want a game with no violence or physicality and I sure won’t be watching or supporting it.

  25. dryzzt23 says:
    July 29, 2018 at 10:34 am
    Just FYI, the last few “stud” LBs out of the SEC, specifically Georgia…have been epic busts:
    Leonard Floyd
    Jarvis Jones
    David Pollack
    Boss Bailey
    Kendrell Bell
    Other SEC schools: Bud Dupree (UK), every LB from Alabama or Auburn.

    So the writing is already on the wall for Smith. He might as well be slapped with the bust label right now. Clearly his attitude shows exactly where his priorities are.


    agree with all of that except donta hightower was instrumental in 2 sb wins and is the best mlb in the afc.

  26. The Bears are trying and can’t seem to get anything going for them. The Lovie/Urlacher days were the last time they were relevant, I believe they won a playoff game in 2010 and with Cutler. Since then it has been nothing but disaster and disappointment. Pretty sad, but still better than the Lions from a divisional stand point.

  27. After the first week this rule will fall under last year catch rule. Inconsistent will be the main topic.

  28. “xargscutgrep says:
    July 27, 2018 at 11:19 am
    Throw spaghetti at the wall much Mike? You have no evidence that the helmet rule is affecting Roquan’s contract.”
    So where’s xargscutgrep now?

  29. dryzzt23 says:
    July 29, 2018 at 10:34 am
    Just FYI, the last few “stud” LBs out of the SEC, specifically Georgia…have been epic busts:
    Leonard Floyd
    Jarvis Jones
    David Pollack
    Boss Bailey
    Kendrell Bell
    Other SEC schools: Bud Dupree (UK), every LB from Alabama or Auburn.


    On the flip side current guys in the NFL that’s having solid to good careers that played LB in the SEC. Melvin Ingram(3-4 LB in college), K.J Wright, Benardrick McKinney, Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander, Wesley Woodyard, Avery Williamson, Danny Trevathan, Alec Ogletree(Georgia), Justin Houston(Georgia), Thomas Davis(Georgia), Karlos Dansby(Auburn), C.J. Mosley(Bama), Don’t’a Hightower(Bama). Then you have former players like
    Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes(Auburn), DeMeco Ryans(Bama), Jevon Kearse(played 3-4 LB in college), then all-time great Derrick Thomas(Bama).

    So lets wait to see how he plays first before just trying to classify him as something because of the conference and/or school he came from.

  30. It’s much ado about nothing. It’s the Shazier rule. Don’t spear and you won’t get fined and or suspended. Normal football plays will go on as usual. Let’s play some football. If Smith doesn’t want to play, fine.

  31. dtroxallday says:
    July 29, 2018 at 12:40 pm
    “xargscutgrep says:
    July 27, 2018 at 11:19 am
    Throw spaghetti at the wall much Mike? You have no evidence that the helmet rule is affecting Roquan’s contract.”
    So where’s xargscutgrep now?
    I said the same thing xargscutgrep said, but it got moderated out, as this might. This idea that the helmet rule might be part of this negotiation had been on here as pure speculation until now–if they had a source, they were not saying so. Now that this is out, it seems they did have a source, but there was no way for a reader to tell.

    As for the dispute itself, anyone who doesn’t see both sides of this isn’t looking very hard. But I just can’t imagine being willing to miss a single second of training camp as a rookie, over any issue.

  32. Same people saying “play by the rules” are some of the people who said “this rule sucks.” Don’t get it both ways.

    Of all the holdouts this may make sense. For those who didn’t play football at a significant level (I did) the head down thing is a real detriment to game. Do I think they will enforce it the way click baiters suggest they will? No. But the head naturally goes down when in the trenches. If your game is based on playing it the right way (which is not what rule allows) then I wouldn’t mind the guy arguing for a contract that understand that rule will be changed soon enough.

  33. Let him holdout. Can’t play the concussion/CTE issue if your not going to abide by safety rules, helmet rule is new, it will have issues, NFL deal with it as they come!

  34. Hey Roquan, You know, if you don’t get your contract signed soon you can always go back to Georgia and dig some wells for a living. Maybe you could even get your agent a job. After all, na, I’d bet he’s never gotten his hands dirty…

  35. Im not even a bears fan and i get what he is doing. He wants his millions protected, the rule can be good or bad – no one knows. But for a rookie coming out, it would be q bigger impact losing millions over a suspension that could or couldnt have been avoided. Sounds like he just needs an insurance policy that protects what they are offering him added in for such an event.

  36. “So where’s xargscutgrep now?”

    I posted above you thanks (hours ahead of you, actually). Reading is fun-da-mental.

    FWIW, Coach said the helmet rule is a contributing issue. He didn’t say it was the only issue (and an ESPN tweet suggests it isn’t the only issue). On my side, I don’t care. Roquan should be in camp.

    Do you really think that the Bears are going to withdraw Roquan’s contract if he gets penalized for the helmet rule? They just gave Zach Miller a one-year contract despite the fact he’s unlikely to ever play again.

    Roquan’s agent seems to want a – get out of jail free – card for any and all transgressions. That’s the way CAA works. Yesterday, offsets. Tomorrow, pot. The day after tomorrow, pushing little old ladies down in the street. Roquan might be caught up in the midst of it, who knows. I personally don’t care. He should be in camp. Especially after losing his iPad.

  37. Roquan is right………..

    I’m with the player on this one……

    The NFL has been round the clubs to explain the new rule, and its clear……nobody understands how the rule will be enforced on the field.

    It will be totally arbitrary….as usual……. except we all know already, the new rules will include exemptions if you are wearing yellow and black………

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