The legitimacy of a four-game NFL Preseason has long been questioned, and it’s become more scrutinized than ever over the last week due to many key players across the league going down to injury.
Over the years, we’ve seen countless avoidable injuries to key players around the league in these August exhibition games. Since 2014, each of the following players sustained injuries that have held them out for an entire year or more.
- QB Sam Bradford (torn ACL – missed entire 2014 season)
- WR Jordy Nelson (torn ACL – missed entire 2015 season)
- QB Tony Romo (broken back – missed half the 2016 season)
- WR Julian Edelman (torn ACL – missed entire 2017 season)
- RB Derrius Guice (torn ACL – missed entire 2018 rookie season)
Keep in mind these a just a few of the more memorable injuries over the past five seasons. This year, the unfortunate trend has continued. Jets ILB Avery Williamson (torn ACL), Chargers SS Derwin James (stress fracture in foot), and Broncos RB Theo Riddick (shoulder fracture) are some notable guys that have already been bitten by the injury bug this August.
Thursday night only made matters worse, as Packers DE Rashan Gary, Washington’s TE Jordan Reed, and Panthers QB Cam Newton were the next group of players to be knocked out of action.
The Bears’ roster, on the other hand, remains predominantly healthy, and for one reason: Matt Nagy has refused to play his star players and risk their health as a team that hopes to compete for a Super Bowl in 2019.
Nagy is known for his unfavorable view of the preseason. While some of Chicago’s starters may see one or two drives at the beginning of games, that’s about as far as he’s willing to go. Instead, he’s done other things to get his team prepped for opening night against Green Bay.
Last week, the Bears played a controlled, simulated game at Soldier Field where each of the first-team offense and defense saw 60 snaps apiece. Nagy and his staff aimed at making it feel as game-like as possible, using the same intro music and air-raid sirens on defense that we see every Sunday.
While this is a unique way of doing things, it’s hard to underestimate a guy who led his team to a 12-4 season in Year 1 of his first NFL head-coaching gig. When speaking on WGN Radio last week, Nagy made it clear that he’ll continue to do what’s best for his group of guys.
My biggest thing is I’m trying to do what’s best for the Chicago Bears. Every team is different and that’s OK.” – Matt Nagy
Put frankly, Nagy doesn’t care what the rest of the league is doing, and it’s now becoming clear as day that resting starters in exhibition games is the smartest move possible.
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel is also 100 percent behind his head coach, and acknowledges the dangers of putting star players on the field in meaningless games.
“I think it’s a smart move,” Daniel said. “And listen, as an NFLPA rep, I really do think you’re going to see this league transitioning to what we’re sort of doing, and a lot of other teams are doing. Joint practices, where you practice back and forth and not play in the game. Because there are so many injuries.”
After seeing how detrimental these preseason injuries can be to a team, perhaps the rest of the league will begin to take notes on how Nagy runs his regime.
After all, keeping players healthy for Week 1 is, and always has been, the main goal. The preseason is meant to gauge a team’s depth and allow inexperienced players to see live game action, so let’s just leave it at that.