Quarterback Justin Fields’ status remains cloudy as the Chicago Bears prepare for this weekend’s road game against the New York Jets.
The Bears returned to practice Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall with Fields cleared by the team’s medical staff to participate.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus said, though, Wednesday’s session will only be a walk-through and that Fields will be a limited participant with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Eberflus again labeled Fields as “day to day” and confirmed the quarterback’s injury is not season-ending.
As for whether Fields might play Sunday against the Jets, Eberflus offered little clarity and said the team will have to collectively assess how Fields is feeling as the week progresses.
“(It’s) what the medical staff is saying to him and to us every single day,” Eberflus said. “And then it’s how he’s feeling — how he’s feeling when he’s moving, when he’s throwing and when he’s going about his business of operating as a quarterback.”
Fields injured his left shoulder on the first play of the Bears’ final drive Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, landing awkwardly when tackled near the sideline by cornerback Dee Alford at the end of a 1-yard run. Fields played the final two snaps after that injury and threw an interception that sealed the Bears’ 27-24 loss.
Smart money says the Bears would be wise to err on the side of caution with Fields if he is significantly limited or deemed to be vulnerable in any fashion.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Eberflus said. “We’ll see. (Thursday) will be more of a faster-paced (practice). We’ll see when he’s moving full speed during that time and during our drill work. We’ll be able to tell.”
Eberflus declined to provide details on Fields’ injury, not willing to say whether the quarterback suffered a shoulder dislocation, a separation, a sprain or something else entirely. He also wouldn’t say if Fields would wear a harness on his left shoulder for protection.
Instead Eberflus emphasized that Fields was given the green light to try practicing. The next step will be determining if he can be thrown back into game action.
“If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play,” Eberflus said. “He feels that way; we feel that way. If he’s ready to go and feels good about it, he’s going to play the game. … We’re trying to win. We want to win the game. There are a lot of great things to getting the experience of playing a game, every single game we can. That’s an important part to this season.”
Still, Eberflus understands the Bears have to be cognizant of prioritizing their long-term best interests over short-term competitive desires. Thus the internal discussions inside Halas Hall in the coming days will be important as the coaching staff and front office work to get or remain on the same page.
Eberflus was asked what would happen if his wishes for Fields to play were in conflict with those of general manager Ryan Poles.
“There’s a big argument then,” he said with a laugh “We have disagreements like that sometimes and we would just have to put our heads together and make a common-sense decision.”
Eberflus said the Bears will monitor Fields’ pain tolerance and look for indications that he is able to play the position without any obvious limitations. “He’s got to be full go, ready to do everything,” Eberflus said.
If Fields isn’t able to play Sunday, backup quarterback Trevor Siemian will start. Ideally, the Bears would love to get Siemian first-team reps running their offense in practice if that’s the direction they sense things are heading.
“That’s an important piece to it for sure,” Eberflus said. “Your backup always has to be ready. Trevor has been outstanding in the meetings. He has great functional intelligence to be able to operate the offense. And he’s familiar with the offense.”
To that end, Eberflus believes the team will know much more on Thursday once they’ve had a chance to assess and discuss how Fields looked in Wednesday’s practice.
Eberflus also acknowledged Fields’ mental and physical toughness plus his competitive desire could complicate their evaluations with the quarterback likely to push to play.
“Once the player says, ‘Yes, I’m good to go,’ the last hurdle is, because of who this guy is, is he really, truly ready to go?” Eberflus said. “Can he go full speed? Can he operate? That’s up to the player and the coaches’ eye.”