LAKE FOREST – There weren’t full pads, there weren’t any veteran players and everyone was knocking off the rust, but there was this: Justin Fields in an orange Bears practice jersey on an actual field.
Fields and the rest of the Bears’ rookies and tryout players participated in their first practice Friday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. It was the first of three rookie minicamp practices this weekend. Fields stood out in his bright orange quarterback jersey while most of his teammates wore blue or white.
This is May football. But still, it was the first glimpse anyone has had of Fields on a football field as a pro.
“It’s really going to be about mental reps this weekend,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s probably going to be the slowest they’ll look.”
Nagy was forced to watch Friday’s practice from home. He was deemed to be a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Nagy is in the process of becoming vaccinated but hasn’t yet completed that process.
On Friday, Bears coaching assistant Kyle Childress was tasked with carrying around a tablet that served as Nagy’s “eyes” for practice. The live stream was a little blurry at times – “Not quite HD,” Nagy joked – but it got the job done. Nagy hopes to return in time for the third and final rookie minicamp practice on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Fields, the 11th overall pick in the draft, has had ample meeting time with his coaches over Zoom, but Friday was the first time he went to work on the field.
Bears quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said this week that he was hoping to see “the building blocks of becoming a starting quarterback in the league” – a command of the huddle, a cadence, an understanding of what to look for pre-snap, an awareness of the play clock.
At one point Friday, Nagy noticed Fields pull a receiver aside and correct him on the intricacies of a certain route. Nagy was impressed to see that on Day 1.
“He seemed super calm,” Nagy said. “A lot of times in these camps, things seem a thousand miles per hour, and it didn’t seem that way [for Fields], from where I was. The ball did not touch the ground very much in the reps that he had passing the football, so that part was good.”
Fields has been studying formations as any recent college student would – with flashcards. He said the only real difference between an NFL playbook and his Ohio State playbook is that at Ohio State the play call came from the sideline. Now he’s the one doing it in the huddle.
On the field, Fields already was working on his connection with rookie sixth-round draft pick Dazz Newsome. The two had a nice completion down the left sideline during 7-on-7 drills.
The quarterback is at the beginning of his learning process. There are going to be some hiccups along the way. Fields is out to earn the respect of his new teammates this weekend.
“My short-terms goals are just to be crisp with the huddle call,” Fields said. “Making sure I’m precise with my reads and stuff like that, and really taking command of the huddle and show the guys out there that I am leading the offense.”