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Matt Nagy on resting Bears’ starters: ‘I know this team better than anybody’

Bears coach Matt Nagy encourages his players during the preseason game against the Chiefs. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bears coach Matt Nagy understands if fans who went to Soldier Field on Saturday expecting the usual dress rehearsal were annoyed that he decided to keep his starters on the bench. He also thinks he did the right thing.

After the Bears’ backups mustered a 27-20 victory against the Chiefs before 43,055 spectators, Nagy said fans needed to trust him.

‘‘First of all, I understand — I completely understand,’’ he said. ‘‘But second, I’m doing what’s best for [fans]. And I’m doing what’s best for them because I’m going to have us in the right spot for Week 1.

‘‘So they may not feel it today, but hopefully — hopefully — they feel it Week 1. Hopefully. Or this year.’’

Fans of the Bears, who have won one-third of their games since their last winning season in 2012, happily would take either timeline.

By sitting quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Nagy removed the small chance of an injury befalling him before the season opener Sept. 9 against the Packers. The Bears put in about 2,000 snaps in practice this offseason, so missing 25 to 30 against the Chiefs won’t have an adverse effect on Trubisky in two weeks, Nagy said.

‘‘So if we win that game against Green Bay, trust me, it wasn’t because we didn’t play 25,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And if we lose, it’s the same thing. I promise you that.’’

Nagy’s defense of his strategy — full-throated, plain-spoken and free of condescension — was in stark contrast to predecessor John Fox, whose tone often recalled a defiant parent saying, ‘‘Because I said so.’’ Nagy was careful not to dismiss opposing viewpoints, then reasserted his rationale.

The Bears have had a ‘‘great, great, great, great’’ preseason, which started earlier than those of 30 NFL teams and featured physical practices against the Broncos, Nagy said. Yes, he liked having five preseason games, even if the starters didn’t play in the Hall of Fame Game. No, he won’t necessarily bench his starters in the same situation next year.


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Nagy entered the week thinking Saturday might be a good off day, provided his starters practiced well. By doing so, they avoided the injury risk that too often has plagued the Bears in recent years. Ask receiver Cam Meredith, who suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game last year and was lost for the season. Or quarterback Connor Shaw, who suffered a compound leg fracture in the third preseason game of 2016.

‘‘Forget all the risk-reward stuff,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Healthwise, where are they? And we have some guys that are tired. I want our guys to be ready to go 100 percent, healthwise, for that Week 1 Packers game. That’s as simple as it gets.’’

The Bears not only sat Trubisky, they also sat running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, receivers Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Josh Bellamy, tight end Trey Burton and offensive linemen Bobby Massie, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Charles Leno.

Defensive starters who sat were linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, linebackers Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho, cornerbacks Prince Amukamara, Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan and safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos. Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith and linebacker Aaron Lynch, who have hamstring injuries, didn’t play, either.

‘‘It was quite a shock,’’ tight end Ben Braunecker said. ‘‘Usually, this is the time for starters to ramp up. But I completely understand his mentality.’’

Quarterback Chase Daniel, who started for Trubisky and completed 15 of 18 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns, knows the value of playing reserves.

‘‘The risk-reward, it’s too much,’’ he said.

The starters were ready to play, but Nagy told them Friday he got 51 percent of the vote. In doing so, he made his first against-the-grain stand as the Bears’ coach.

‘‘This was, just for me, knowing the pulse of our team,’’ he said. ‘‘I know this team better than anybody right now. And I feel strongly about that.’’