Fields set to return to Bears' lineup after missing 2 games
By ANDREW SELIGMAN | AP Sports Writer
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Justin Fields is set to return to the Chicago Bears' lineup.
Coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday the prized rookie quarterback will start when the team visits the Green Bay Packers this week after missing the past two games because of broken ribs.
Fields, the No. 11 overall draft pick, practiced on a limited basis last week. He has not played since he left in the second half of a loss to Baltimore on Nov. 21.
Fields wasn't sure exactly when the injury happened. His final play against the Ravens was a 6-yard scramble on third-and-11 at the Chicago 45 on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Fields went to the locker room, and veteran Andy Dalton replaced him.
“I didn’t get hit that hard, so 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 also took a shot to his ribs in the national semifinals last year when Clemson linebacker James Skalski nailed him in the right side of his torso. Skalski was ejected for targeting because he led with the crown of his helmet.
Fields missed one play and finished with six touchdown passes in Ohio State’s 49-28 victory. The ribs bothered him in the national championship game, and the Buckeyes lost 52-24 to Alabama.
He won't be playing at 100%, either, when the Bears visit the NFC North-leading Packers. Green Bay beat Chicago 24-14 at Soldier Field in October in a game where the Packers' Aaron Rodgers turned toward the crowd after running for a late touchdown and yelled, "I still own you! I still own you!”
“You have three cracked ribs, of course there’s gonna be pain,” Fields said. “As long as it’s just not crazy pain where I can’t bear it, I’m gonna play and practice.”
He went about a week without throwing after he left the Baltimore game.
“Then I tried to throw a little bit but I couldn’t. It was hurting to throw, so I kind of chilled out a little bit,” he said.
Dalton, who opened the season as Chicago's No. 1 quarterback before injuring his knee against Cincinnati in Week 2, has started the past two games. He helped lead the Bears to a narrow Thanksgiving victory at then-winless Detroit, then tied a career high with four interceptions in a loss to Arizona on Sunday and injured his non-throwing, left hand.
Nagy said the decision to start Fields was not related to Dalton's injury, adding the former Ohio State star remains the team's No. 1 quarterback. He also would not give any details on the condition of Dalton, who did not practice. If he isn't available Sunday, Nick Foles would be the backup.
As for Fields?
“There’s a lot of players right now in this league that are playing at less than 100%, and when it’s the quarterback position, he’s gonna have to learn about a lot of stuff ... whether it’s physical or mental,” Nagy said. “But he’s wired that way. That’s not hard for him.”
Fields’ development remains a key goal for a team with a 4-8 record. The Bears have lost six of the past seven games, and their offense ranks among the NFL's worst.
Fields has completed 115 of 198 passes for 1,361 yards in 10 games and eight starts. He has four touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Fields had several promising outings prior to the game against Baltimore.
In a loss to San Francisco at Soldier Field on Halloween, he threw for 175 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 103 yards and a score, becoming the first Bears QB to rush for 100 yards in a game since Bobby Douglass in 1973.
The following week in a Monday night loss at Pittsburgh, he passed for a personal-best 291 yards and threw a go-ahead touchdown in the closing minutes.
“We really feel like he was really improving as the games went by for him individually, our team, our offense," Nagy said.
"There are still places where we can certainly improve at. As a staff we felt like we were really getting a good feel for where he was and then he gets injured. So then for him to come back, yeah, I mean against a big division opponent and rival that we know all about. I know that he’s excited for it and that’s just kind of how he is. So he’s ready to go.”
Rodgers says Packers' off week gave his toe time to improve
By STEVE MEGARGEE | AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says the off week has assisted him in his recovery from a toe injury, though it’s still painful enough to keep the reigning MVP from practicing.
Rodgers wasn’t on the practice field Wednesday as the Packers (9-3) prepared for their Sunday night home game with the Chicago Bears (4-8). He practiced just once before a Nov. 21 loss at Minnesota and didn’t practice at all before a Nov. 28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
“I feel good these two weeks are going to give me a real good chance to get a lot of the healing done,” Rodgers said Wednesday. “We’re so far out now from the initial injury that I’d like to think that any damage I might do on Sunday will pale in comparison to the healing that’s been done the last couple weeks.”
Rodgers says he fractured his pinky toe while working out at home during his quarantine last month after testing positive for COVID-19.
But the lack of practice time due to the injury hasn’t limited his effectiveness on Sundays.
“For him, picking up a football and throwing it, you can see it right away when we go out there in pregame warmups, it’s like riding a bike,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
Rodgers, who turned 38 last Thursday, went 23 of 33 for 385 yards and four touchdowns at Minnesota. He followed that by going 28 of 45 for 307 yards with a pair of touchdown passes against the Rams. He didn’t throw an interception in either game.
The toe injury hasn’t even had any notable impact on his running ability. Rodgers had a 1-yard touchdown run against the Rams and a season-long 18-yard carry at Minnesota.
“As far as being able to move around, I’ve been fortunate enough to have very little pain on game day,” Rodgers said. “And obviously there’s things the team can do to alleviate your pain, but I’ve been fortunate to enjoy some really good weeks of healing and feel good, and then obviously at some point during the game or after the game, I’m in a lot more pain.”
The Packers' quarterback depth has taken another hit this week with backup Jordan Love going on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The only other quarterback on the roster is Kurt Benkert, though the Packers signed Danny Etling to the practice squad Tuesday.
Rodgers didn’t know how many more weeks he might have to deal with limited practice time due to the injury, though he said the extra rest he got during the off week should help in that regard.
“I’ve got to see how it reacts on Sunday when I get back out there and play,” Rodgers said. “But this was really, really positive – the time to heal and not doing anything for now going on 10 days. That’s been really, really helpful. So we’re hoping that we can get on the other side of this.”
The Bears often have brought out the best in Rodgers, who yelled “I still own you!” to the Soldier Field crowd after his fourth-quarter touchdown run in a 24-14 victory at Chicago on Oct. 17.[2:1]
Green Bay has gone 22-5 against the Bears in games that Rodgers has started. One of those five losses came when an injury knocked him out of the game after the Packers’ opening series.
Rodgers said Wednesday he grew up as a Cubs and Bulls fan, as he noted his appreciation of Greg Maddux, Harry Caray and Michael Jordan. The native of Chico, California, added that he “wasn’t a big Bears fan” and instead grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers and later the Kansas City Chiefs because he admired Joe Montana.
But he still appreciates the Packers-Bears rivalry and has enjoyed the role he has played in shifting the balance of power.
“If you’re a lover of sports history, the names that have played on both sides in this thing for 100 years is pretty special,” Rodgers said. “So it’s fun to be a part of it. Just like anything in this league, I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of this stretch in time, but this rivalry existed long before I got here, and long after I’m done playing it’s going to keep on going. It’ll be fun to keep an eye on.
“I feel good about being able to leave this at some point with us ahead, which you never know, it’s been an ebb and flow in this rivalry, and it’s been fun to get back ahead in the all-time series.”
NOTES: CB Jaire Alexander returned to practice Wednesday as the 2020 Pro Bowl selection gets closer to a return from a shoulder injury that has him on injured reserve. Alexander hasn’t played since Oct. 3. … OT David Bakhtiari (knee) and WR Randall Cobb (core) didn’t practice.
Notes & References
Chicago Journal. “Dalton Sparks Bears before Defense Breaks down Late Again.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, November 22, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/dalton-sparks-bears-before-defense-breaks-down-late-again/. ↩︎
Chicago Journal. “Fields' Inconsistency Hurts Bears in 24-14 Loss to Packers.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, October 18, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/fields-inconsistency-hurts-bears-in-24-14-loss-to-packers/. ↩︎ ↩︎
Chicago Journal. “Santos' Game-Ending FG Ends Bears' Skid versus Winless Lions.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, November 26, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/santos-game-ending-fg-ends-bears-skid-versus-winless-lions/. ↩︎
Chicago Journal. “Dalton's Interceptions Send Bears to Loss against Cardinals.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, December 6, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/daltons-interceptions-send-bears-to-loss-against-cardinals/. ↩︎
Press, Associated. “Bears Struggle with Mack Sidelined, Lose to San Francisco 33-22.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, November 1, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/bears-struggle-with-mack-sidelined-lose-to-san-francisco-33-22/. ↩︎
Chicago Journal. “Bears Fall Short on Monday Night Football, Lose to Steelers 29-27.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, November 9, 2021. https://www.chicagojournal.com/bears-fall-short-on-monday-night-football-lose-to-steelers-29-27/. ↩︎
Megargee, Steve. “Packers' Rodgers Says He's Been Playing with Fractured Toe.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, November 24, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-nfl-sports-health-football-5f660e91b4c6e525dddbe861e9c58166. ↩︎