LAKE FOREST – When he knew the Bears were going to be playing at Mercedes Benz Stadium toward the end of last year, when the regular season opponents and destinations were set, a native of Georgia got pretty excited.
Roquan Smith grew up in the state, played his high school and college football in Georgia, and most of his family along with friends remain there. This would be the first time as a professional that the middle linebacker would play in the state, and that’s not going to change on Sunday.
Yet it’s not going to be as he might have hoped, since the City of Atlanta and the Falcons have decided not to have fans in the stadium through at least the first month of the season. Those people close to Smith, who he hoped would be in the stands, instead will be watching at home like everyone else.
“I definitely sucks for sure,” said Smith of not having family and friends at the game.
But it’s not exactly getting the former first round pick down as he gets ready for his third game of the 2020 season. Smith has played well in his first two games of the season as he’s been an active contributor around the field.
He leads the team with 15 tackles and already has two for loss on rushing plays, and he’s appreciative that he gets the chance to play in Atlanta at all following an offseason on uncertainty with COVID-19.
“I’m just thinking about being grateful, being able to play the game, my family will be able to watch it on TV,” said Smith. “I’m just excited to get back to Georgia, the home state.”
It could be an interesting afternoon, since the Falcons are awaiting COVID-19 tests after cornerback AJ Terrell was placed on the virus reserve list on Saturday. That could mean that other players could be held out as a precaution, with many questions remaining before the Noon central time kickoff.
But on Smith’s mind this entire week was a strong Falcons’ offense that’s fourth in total yards (443) and fifth in points (32) per game. He understands that a lot of people from his days in Athens will be watching to see how he performs in his first Georgia pro game – and he’s already seen that online.
“See a lot of stuff definitely on Facebook and social media from a lot of friends that are Falcons fans. Just hearing what those guys have to say,” said Smith. “I’m very excited to go against this offense. I think it’s a really good offense, as we all know. They score a lot of points so a lot of weapons on offense.
“I’m just excited to go out there and show my skillset and I’m sure my other guys are excited as well.”