Bears say Dalton will start if healthy

  • Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, here being pressured Sunday by Cincinnati strong safety Vonn Bell, will start next week at Cleveland if he's healthy, the team said Monday.

    Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, here being pressured Sunday by Cincinnati strong safety Vonn Bell, will start next week at Cleveland if he's healthy, the team said Monday. Mark Busch/

By Sean Hammond
Updated 9/21/2021 7:51 AM

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton does not have an ACL tear in his left knee, head coach Matt Nagy said Monday. The Bears are still awaiting the full results of Dalton's medical evaluations, but have ruled out the worst-case scenario.

Nagy said they expect to know more by Monday evening.


"We'll see how that goes later on today and then work from that," Nagy said.

Dalton injured his knee in the second quarter of Sunday's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields played the entire second half. Dalton did come back into the game for a series in the second quarter after the initial injury occurred, but that was the last fans saw of him on the field. He remained on the sideline throughout the second half.

Fields played well enough, with a lot of help from the Bears defense, to guide the Bears to a 20-17 victory. Fields finished the game 6-for-13 passing for 60 yards with one interception. He also ran for 31 yards on 10 carries.

The early diagnosis for Dalton is a bone bruise, although that is still pending an MRI, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Nagy was asked directly who the quarterback would be if both players are healthy. The coach avoided giving a direct answer Monday.

"If Andy is healthy, is he your starter?" Nagy said, repeating the question. "That's something that I'm not going to get into with scheme."

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At the time of the question, the reporter pointed out that it wasn't a scheme question, it was a question about personnel.

"Of course it is, that's 100% scheme," Nagy said. "That's 100% scheme."

Several minutes after Nagy's Monday morning news conference finished up, a member of the Bears media relations staff returned to the media room and said that Nagy had misunderstood the question. Bears public relations clarified that if Dalton is healthy, he will be the starter.

What exactly to make of all that is unclear. The Bears might want the Cleveland Browns, their Week 3 opponent, to have to prepare for both quarterbacks. In the secretive world of the NFL, teams will go to incredible lengths to keep their opponents in the dark.

But it was certainly on odd look to clarify a question after a news conference, especially a fairly straightforward question.

It matters because if Dalton is unavailable, it will change the entire practice plan for this week -- and presumably change how the Bears offense looks. The Bears will prepare differently if Fields is the starter, as opposed to Dalton.


"We've just got to make sure that whatever (plays) we put in there, that he knows inside out," Nagy said. "So if there's more plays that he knows or likes, we'll get that in there and he'll go out there and play quarterback the way it's supposed to be played."

After Sunday's game, Fields said he would be ready to go if the team needs him to start in Week 3. He said a full week of practice with the first-team offense would help him "be even more prepared."

Nagy said Monday that Fields knows the entire playbook and the entire playbook was open to him in the win over the Bengals, even if he was coming in on short notice.

"I know (QB coach John DeFilippo) has done a phenomenal job at working with him and getting him prepared," Nagy said. "And so there was really the whole play sheet, the call sheet, was open. But there's just a feel to where it's going and how it's going with the shifts and motions."

Still, there was very little movement outside the pocket. The Bears didn't roll Fields out and move the pocket, something that would seem to play into his strengths as a mobile quarterback.


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