LAKE FOREST – For the first time, the Bears had a chance to see what their 2021 defense might look like. After several weeks of somewhat low attendance at organized team activities, the Bears veterans returned for mandatory veteran minicamp Tuesday – except for one notable absence
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was not present Tuesday at Halas Hall. Goldman previously opted out of the entire 2020 season because of the pandemic.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy said Goldman’s absence from mandatory minicamp this week is not an excused absence. According to OverTheCap.com, Goldman has a workout bonus tied to his contract. By skipping the offseason program, he is surrendering a $100,000 bonus.
Nagy said that he spoke with Goldman a day earlier on Monday.
“Obviously, I’m going to keep that [discussion] between us,” Nagy said. “But we do expect him to be at training camp rocking and rolling.”
Nagy later added he feels “confident” Goldman will show up for training camp in July. He said he’s not sure if Goldman’s continued absence has to do with the pandemic. But fans haven’t seen Goldman or heard from him since the 2019 season ended.
“Do we wish he was here?” Nagy said. “Absolutely, because we think he is a hell of a player and he has been out a whole year.”
Taking attendance: Meanwhile, outside linebacker Robert Quinn sat out practice with what Nagy described as a lower back injury. Quinn was present at camp but not participating. Also present and not participating were receiver Anthony Miller and offensive lineman Germain Ifedi.
Much of the first string defense was back after skipping OTAs the past couple weeks. Also back in action were quarterback Nick Foles and receiver Allen Robinson.
Big year ahead for Smith: Inside linebacker Roquan Smith was among the few defensive starters who has participated in the entire offseason program.
“If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, in my opinion,” Smith said. “So I feel like there’s a lot of things I’ve learned out there, bonding with some of new guys that are here, with some of the rookies as well, and also just learning little new things into the defense.”
Smith noted that he wasn’t bothered that many of his fellow veteran defenders decided to skip OTAs. Safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Desmond Trufant were the only other veteran starters present last week, although Trufant isn’t even a surefire starter at this point.
Other than this week’s veteran minicamp, everything during the offseason program was optional. Nagy said that all those absent players were present for virtual meetings during that time.
Safety Eddie Jackson said he skipped OTAs to keep his body healthy.
“Just being able to do things more on your own, focus more on your body, mentally, just more individual things,” Jackson said. “I’m honestly happy to be back.”
Smith didn’t skip a beat. Coming off the best season of his young career, he has a pivotal year ahead of him. The Bears exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract this offseason, tying him to the team through 2022. But that doesn’t mean they can’t negotiate a possible extension in the meantime.
The 24-year-old certainly has earned a right to have that discussion. He led the Bears with 139 tackles in 2020, along with 18 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He had the best season by a Bears inside linebacker in a decade.
Smith says he isn’t worried about contract talks right now.
“That’s going to come when it comes,” Smith said. “ I’m not too focused on that. My main focus right now is OTAs, getting out here with my teammates.”
Smith added that remaining in Chicago is “definitely something I want.” Nagy appreciates Smith’s presence this spring.
“They don’t make many players like Roquan Smith,” Nagy said. “I’ll just tell you that right now. They just don’t. And we are so lucky to have him as one of the main leaders of this defense. And for him to come in here and just, every day, do his thing and just run around, fly around, help teach these younger guys that’s really neat.”