Bears QB Fields will start Sunday at Green Bay
Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields has been cleared to return to action after battling through a rib injury, head coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday. Fields is expected to start against Green Bay Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton is dealing with a left hand injury, and it's unclear at this point if Dalton or Nick Foles will be the backup on Sunday.
Dalton's status has nothing to do with Fields' availability, Nagy said. The rookie has been fully cleared by the team's doctors, according to Nagy.
Fields said Wednesday that he had three broken ribs. He can't pinpoint exactly when the injury occurred. He exited a Nov. 21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the second half, but couldn't point to any one particular hit that caused the injury.
"I think it happened before that last play when I came off," Fields said. "I tried to get up and run and it was hurting to run. I'm not even sure what play it happened on."
Fields hasn't played in a game since then. He didn't practice at all ahead of a Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions, and sat out that game. Last week, he returned to practice in a limited capacity but still sat out Sunday's game against Arizona.
"I think last week (practicing) was really good for him," Nagy said. "I thought that the progress was really good. We did not feel like it was where it needed to be to be the starter that week. And so now, you get the clearance, and now he's at a point where, mentally and physically, he's ready to go."
Fields said the injury was much less severe than the rib injury he sustained nearly a year ago with Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals. That injury was incredibly painful and involved a hip injury as well. Fields said he sat for four or five weeks after last season recovering from that injury.
This time around, he went about a week without throwing. He plans on wearing extra protection over his ribs in Sunday's game, but he said he wears that extra protection every game.
Nagy kept pointing to the fact that the Bears cleared Fields to play, but that doesn't necessarily mean his ribs are fully healed. A fractured rib can take up to six weeks, or more, to heal. The reality is that at this point in the NFL season there are many players dealing with nagging injuries.
"Yeah, there's pain there, but I mean, the pain's just not unbearable," Fields said. "I know there's going to be pain there, but I mean, it is what it is. You have three cracked ribs, of course there's going to be pain."
Nagy has said throughout the past two weeks that it comes down to pain tolerance for Fields. That hasn't changed. They seem to believe his pain is at a more tolerable level.
"It's a pain deal that we can't really simulate," Nagy said. " But we know that where he's at -- we go off what he says, we go off what our doctors say -- and when he's fully cleared like he is, then we're ready to rock 'n' roll."
During the last two weeks, Fields was forced to watch from the sidelines. He leaned on advice from Foles, the third-string quarterback. Foles hasn't appeared in a game this season after starting seven games for the Bears during the 2020 season.
"I asked Nick (on Tuesday) what things he saw when I was playing that I can improve on," Fields said. "So we talked about that a little bit. I definitely picked up a few little minor things within the game of football that will help me."
Fields said that Dalton and Foles often have different opinions on certain concepts. Two veteran NFL quarterbacks aren't always going to agree on how things should play out. Fields likes when that happens because he can then analyze both sides of the argument, and do it with two pretty accomplished quarterbacks.
Come Sunday, though, the ball will once again be in Fields' hands.