A week after linebacker Roquan Smith was overcome with emotion after the Bears traded Robert Quinn, the feeling of loss was just as heavy after Smith was traded to the Ravens on Monday.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was in disbelief. I was in shock,” safety Eddie Jackson said after practice Wednesday. “To everybody it was a shock that we got rid of Rob. So when you get rid of Ro — the thoughts go through your head like, ‘What are we playing for? Is their vision still the same as the players?’ We’re trying to make it to a Super Bowl, get to the playoffs, things like that.
“I’m a player. I really don’t involve myself with what goes on upstairs. I get it. My sixth year in the league. I understand it. It was a good move as a GM to try to get something [for Smith]. But it just hits different. The upstairs people aren’t down here with us. This has become a brotherly bond that becomes deeper than football. So it kind of hurts. It was definitely an emotional day.”
Cornerback Jaylon Johnson felt a literal sense of loss that another team captain — an emotional and vocal leader –was no longer on the team.
“It was a lot,” Johnson said. “I had just left the building. It was one of those things where you come back in the building and you see everybody kind of moving different. You don’t hear him in the locker room. You don’t hear him out at walk-throughs. You just kind of get that feeling that — I don’t want to say he’s gone, but he’s moved on to a different team.”
In Baltimore, Smith was dealing with the same kind of shock. But like his former teammates, he was ready to get through the emotion, deal with the reality and move on.
“I didn’t plan to [get traded], but life happens at times and [I] got traded. So initially I was shocked,” he told reporters in Baltimore on Wednesday. “But I’m excited to be there. Good group of guys that’s contending for a title and that’s what I’m in the game to play for — playing for a title.”
Losing Quinn was a tough hit, but at least easy to understand — the 33-year-old veteran was an odd fit on a rebuilding team. But Smith is 25, in the prime of his career and considered the biggest foundation piece of the rebuild. His departure — because of a contract impasse — left general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus with some explaining to do. That’s why both of them met with the team’s 13-player leadership council to quell any discord.
“Roquan more than anybody [was] kind of the lifeblood of the locker room,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “So it’s tough when you lose a guy like that. You don’t know what kind of message it sends. That’s why it was great [to hear] from coach and Ryan in terms of them walking us through and understanding some things.”
Jackson, a six-year veteran and the longest-tenured defensive starter, echoed that sentiment. The last thing this 3-5 team coming off a 49-29 loss needs is even a hint of dissension.
“It helps a lot. I told Ryan that,” Jackson said. “I appreciated him giving us a call and telling us what’s going on. You kind of need that. There are a lot of things that start floating around, especially in the locker room, like, ‘They don’t care about their guys.’ That was pretty cool for them to talk to us as men. We get the business part of this. We respect that. But we like to be respected as men and football players as well.”