LAKE FOREST, Ill. – 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.”
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