Bears players felt like coach Matt Nagy had their collective back when he decided to bench most of his team’s starters for Saturday’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. So on Monday, those starters who didn’t play had Nagy’s back when discussing their first-year coach’s bold, unorthodox play.
“Just because we’ve been doing it for a long time doesn’t mean it’s right, just because it’s what most NFL teams do doesn’t mean it’s the right way of thinking,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “I love what coach Nagy’s approach is. He’s thinking, what’s best for my team? What’s best for the Bears? He’s not thinking, what does everybody else do? Or what would make me look good in front of my players or the coaches or the media? He’s not thinking that way. He’s thinking, what is going to help us beat Green Bay? And so I trust him.”
A few things about not playing resonated with the guys who were relegated to the sidelines for the traditionally “all-important” dress rehearsal preseason game. First and foremost, even if some players wanted to play, the collective feeling was that Nagy had their best interests in mind.
“I was happy just about his approach,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “In the preseason you get little nicks and bruises that carry on through the regular season. I felt like it was a smart move on his part, the way the game is changing. It makes his players look at him like he really cares about us.”
Said running back Tarik Cohen: “He doesn’t care about what everybody else is going to think. He’s just looking out for our best interests and the team’s best interest, and that’s the type of coach you want on your side.”
Some players who were here a year ago were quick to point out wide receiver Cameron Meredith’s season-ending knee injury suffered in 2017’s third preseason game, while others made note of Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Marqise Lee suffering a season-ending knee injury over the weekend. Lee’s former teammate, Allen Robinson, certainly did.
“For me, for that being one of my close friends, that was very tough to see,” Robinson said. “… At the end of the day, like I said before, coach Nagy has the best interests for us players and this team. I think at the end of the day, whenever you can try to take certain precautions or whatever, I think that was in the best interests.”
Offensive lineman Kyle Long brought up Lee in making a point about the importance of preseason game snaps, too.
“I think you’d be crazy to say I want to play more reps of meaningless football,” Long said. “Until they start passing for wins and losses, it’s an opportunity for the younger guys and the backups to have their opportunity to make the team. Unfortunately you saw with Marqise Lee and guys like that … I think that answers your question. It’s kind of pointless.”
That’s not to say all of the guys who didn’t play on Saturday didn’t want to play. Some of them did, Cohen said, but more important was that Nagy’s decision was respected.
How not playing on Saturday impacts the Bears’ readiness for Sept. 9’s curtain-lifting trip to Green Bay remains to be seen, though players didn’t believe sitting out will have a negative impact. If anything, it might’ve provided a little extra motivation among these players to prove their coach right.
“I feel like it was the right move,” Trevathan said. “It’s our job to make it the best move for him.”