The Bears have Matt Nagy’s back when it comes to the starter’s preseason reps
LAKE FOREST – Whether they’re lining up against someone in a blue jersey at Halas Hall or against the green and gold at Lambeau Field, there is one thing that makes a play in football the same.
“We’re playing against human beings,” said Bears offensive guard Kyle Long when asked if practice reps can simulate those in a game. “Akiem Hicks is pretty big and strong. I don’t think you can simulate getting hit by a ‘Mack’ truck. So, yeah, I know I’m going to be prepared.”
Those questions were aplenty in the Bears’ locker room on Monday following one of the more bold and perhaps slightly controversial decisions of Matt Nagy’s young tenure with the team last weekend. Instead of giving his starters the traditional half of reps in the team’s second-to-last preseason game, the coach decided to award them with a day off against the Chiefs on Saturday.
Nagy adamantly defended the decision, saying that the starters had 2,000 snaps in camp, and it was the right thing to do to reward the team for a solid week of practice. Pundits across the NFL have taken sides on the decision, defending it for preventing injuries, criticizing it since the offense is learning an entirely new system.
In the locker room, however, the Bears’ starters are unified in their support of the decision and the decisiveness Nagy had in making it.
“Coach is a great leader and he’s obviously really smart. We started two weeks early because we had a new coach in OTAs, and then we played in the fifth preseason game. So really that was our fourth preseason game,” said Sam Acho of Nagy. “So he’s an intelligent guy and he knows what he’s doing, and we trust him.”
That’s something very important for Allen Robinson, who continues to round out his comeback from a torn ACL suffered in the first game of the 2017 season with the Jaguars. He appreciates his coach watching out for him and others on the roster, knowing the importance of balancing the importance of preseason reps.
“He’s our coach, he has the best interest for this team, and has the best interest for his players,” said Robinson, who saw action in one preseason game the last month. “He had our best interests as a team, as players since the day he got here, so there was no question or no wonder or anything like that.”
Nagy’s decision certainly has one benefit: Less risk of injury to a starter. The Bears found that out the hard way in the second-to-last preseason game of 2017, when receiver Cameron Meredith suffered a season-ending tears in his ACL and MCL. Once considered a candidate to be the team’s top receiver, doubts about the knee led to the Bears allowing Meredith to sign with the New Orleans Saints in the offseason.
Yet if the team is sloppy against the Packers, especially on offense with a new system, some could point to lack of game reps in the preseason as a reason. That’s why finding out if Nagy’s decision is right or wrong will take a bit of time.
But at the moment, the new coach has earned a little extra respect from those in the locker room.
“Felt like it was a smart move on his part. The way the game is changing, and it makes his players look at him like he really cares, about us,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan. “We see what he’s doing, and we appreciate it, but at the same time we’ve got work to do and we know we have to get the ‘W’ for him.”
Should they do so against the Packers September 9th, that would help the NFL earn the respect for Nagy like they have for him at the moment.