LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)It came as no surprise when Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy on Wednesday announced Chase Daniel will start at quarterback in place of injured Mitchell Trubisky in London against the Oakland Raiders.
The unexpected announcement actually came from Bears linebacker Roquan Smith when he said he plans to play against the Raiders on Sunday.
Smith missed the Bears’ 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings for what Nagy had termed a ”personal issue,” and on Monday his status had been uncertain.
”I will play this week,” Smith said with resolve.
The eighth overall pick in the 2018 draft, Smith had 24 tackles in the first three games but then was watching from the sideline against Minnesota with no explanation other than ”personal issue” from Nagy or the Bears organization.
”Like coach said, it was a personal reason,” Smith said. ”That’s behind us now. So (I’m) just focused on getting better this week and moving on to Oakland.”
No further explanation was given by Smith or Nagy for the absence. Smith wouldn’t answer if a legal issue was involved or even if it was an injury of some sort. He said he knew fans and reporters would want to know why he missed the game but asked they respect his privacy.
”I guess that’s just life in general,” Smith said. ”People are always curious.”
Smith went through a full practice but Nagy wasn’t presumptive about Smith’s availability.
”It’s gonna be more of a day-to-day thing for us with him,” Nagy said.
Nick Kwiatkoski started for Smith against Minnesota and made a team-high nine tackles, with a strip sack and two tackles for loss.
”That was big time,” Smith said. ”Guys definitely stepped up, Nick Kwiatkoski, (linebacker) Kevin (Pierre-Louis), so that’s big. You know, when one brother is down, others just step up and do their jobs. That was huge.”
Smith wasn’t surprised by the Bears’ defensive effort. It came with starting linemen Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols also out with injuries.
”We kind of expect that, knowing the type of guys that we have, the brotherhood we’ve built here,” Smith said.
Daniel makes his third start with the Bears due to the left shoulder injury suffered by Trubisky when he tried to scramble and was taken down by Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter. The Bears hadn’t officially said Trubisky would miss the game until Wednesday. Nagy said a date for Trubisky’s return is uncertain at this point, calling him ”day to day.”
Daniel has been in the league since 2010 and it’s his fifth overall start. Last week, Daniel went 22 of 30 for 195 yards and a touchdown in relief. He had to take over for an injured Trubisky last year against Detroit on Thanksgiving without getting a snap in practice because of a short week prior to the game, but went 27 of 37 for 230 yards with two touchdowns in a 23-16 victory.
Now he’s hoping to draw on that effort with a week of actual practices disrupted only by the team’s Thursday evening flight to London.
”Obviously it’s a positive, right? You get the whole week to work with your guys,” Daniel said. ”The short week was tough because we hadn’t repped any of the plays, we barely walked through any of the plays. That was just going out there and playing.
”It’ll be good to get the whole week with the guys and maybe stay after a little bit and get certain routes with guys I’ll need to make sure that we’re on time and in rhythm.”
For Daniel last year, the problem was more shaking off rust. It’s not as big a deal this week.
”I know Chase hasn’t had a lot of starts in the NFL, but he’s been in a lot of practices, he’s been in a lot of preseason games and he’s played a lot of college games,” Nagy said. ”And so you put all that together, there’s a confidence and a trust in himself and you feel that.
”Our biggest challenge, and what we want to do in this situation that we’re in right now, is we want Chase to be able to lead this team as best as he can here in what we’re talking about, and do it not from a backup role but now from a starting role.”
It wasn’t so easy in the second game Daniel started last year, a 30-27 overtime loss on the road to the New York Giants. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-6. The Bears allowed 23 points on defense in that loss, but Daniel will be backed this week by a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 15 points in a game this season.
”My goal in this game is to give the defense a little bit of a break so they’re not having to play lights out, which they will continue to do, I’m sure,” Daniel said.
NOTES: The injury list remained long for the Bears as wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion), Hicks (knee), Nichols (hand), guard Ted Larsen (knee) and linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwwe (hamstring) joined Trubisky on the sidelines watching practice. … Guard Kyle Long (hip) practiced on a limited basis.
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