Andy Dalton will get more than six plays Saturday to try to change the citywide narrative about the Bears’ quarterback competition-that-isn’t-really-one against rookie Justin Fields.
Not that he’s thinking about it that way.
‘‘You can’t focus on that,’’ Dalton said after practice Wednesday. ‘‘If you focus on that, then that’s gonna beat you down. And so I know who I am, I know who I was created to be, I know where my identity lies.
‘‘And so do I want the fans behind me and this team and all that kind of stuff? Yes. Do I want them behind Justin? Absolutely, I do.’’
Fields gave Bears fans plenty to cheer about in the first preseason game; Dalton did not. The Bears failed to garner a first down in his two drives — one came back on a holding call — and he completed 2 of 4 passes for 18 yards. He ran six plays before giving way to Fields.
Dalton, however, remains the Bears’ unquestioned Week 1 starter, even as Bears fans wait for coach Matt Nagy to give the job — eventually — to Fields.
‘‘Justin is going to have his time and Justin is going to have a great career,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘But right now it’s my time. And so my focus is on being the best player I can be for this team and do everything I can to help this team win.’’
That sounds awfully similar to Mike Glennon’s ‘‘This is my year’’ declaration after the Bears drafted Mitch Trubisky in 2017. But Dalton has the self-confidence and résumé Glennon never had. At the time, Glennon had started 18 games and thrown 30 touchdown passes; Dalton has started 142 games and thrown 218 touchdown passes.
Dalton thus far has managed a potentially awkward situation remarkably well, even as he knows the ovation that awaits Fields on Saturday.
‘‘I mean, he’s a first-round pick, and just with everything that’s gone on here, there’s a lot of excitement with it,’’ Dalton said. ‘‘But I didn’t feel like there wasn’t excitement for me, either. So I think, for us, if we just go out and operate how we know we can do, I think the fans will be excited when we score lots of touchdowns this year.’’
Fields struggled in practice Tuesday and threw only a few passes in practice Wednesday because of a groin injury. Nagy said he hoped Fields would be able to play Saturday because preseason games are valuable for his development and for the Bears’ ability to evaluate him in a game setting.
With or without Fields, Dalton will play more Saturday than he did in the opener — at least twice as many snaps. His goals are simple.
‘‘You just want to see the offense operate the way it’s supposed to,’’ he said. ‘‘I just want to be efficient and set the standard of how we’re going to be getting in and out of the huddle, how we’re going to move the ball and all that kind of stuff. . . .
‘‘This week, obviously, we’ll have a chance to get in more of a rhythm.’’
Dalton was sharp in practice again. He has been solid for the last three weeks — safety Tashaun Gipson said Dalton has had a ‘‘super-fine camp’’ — but it’s human nature for him to want to show a stadium full of people that the offense is in good hands.
‘‘I think the biggest thing is, ‘All right, this is what it’s like to be playing some real football,’ ’’ Dalton said. ‘‘Fans in the stands, there’s some emotion involved and you’ve still got to be at your best.’’