LAKE FOREST – This isn’t the first time Justin Fields has been stuck behind someone on the depth chart.
As a freshman at Georgia in 2018, Fields saw limited action behind Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm. A sophomore in 2018, Fromm had led Georgia to the College Football Playoff national championship game a year earlier.
Circumstances are quite different now, but the basics are similar – Fields is stuck behind veteran Andy Dalton on the Bears’ depth chart.
At veteran minicamp this week in Lake Forest, Bears coach Matt Nagy flat out said the situation’s not going to change anytime soon.
“That plan is not going to change tomorrow,” Nagy said. “The plan is not going to change in training camp. The plan is a plan, and it’s been thought out.”
In college, Fields simply transferred from Georgia to Ohio State after his freshman season. That’s not an option now. Nor does it need to be. Unless Dalton is outstanding in 2021, the rookie first-round draft pick is likely to see the field at some point.
Fields said Thursday that he believes in the Bears’ plan for him.
“If I don’t believe in it, then it’s not going to work out,” Fields said. “My job is strictly to get better, be the best quarterback I can be and help my team win. That’s what I am going to do whether it’s starting or whether it’s sitting.”
Fields wrapped up his first NFL offseason program Thursday. It consisted of a week of rookie minicamp, two weeks of organized team activities and a week of veteran minicamp. Now he has about five weeks before training camp kicks off in late July.
After a busy spring for his family – there was the draft, of course, and Fields’ sister Jaiden played in the Women’s College World Series for Georgia – Fields said he plans to take a vacation with his family. Football won’t be far from his mind, though.
“Then I’m probably going to come up here a few weeks early and just work out, study film, meet with coach Nagy individually on Zoom, most likely, and just talk about the play book,” Fields said.
Nagy said Fields has been putting in extra work. As Nagy walked to the interview room Thursday, he spotted Fields working one-on-one, after practice, with some of the tight ends on red zone concepts.
During minicamp practice Thursday, linebacker Christian Jones picked off Fields in the red zone. The play was one the offense had just installed earlier in practice. Nagy and Fields had a discussion afterward, and the coach liked Fields’ response to the mistake.
“[Nagy] was just pretty much telling me how he felt about that situation,” Fields said. “Pretty much telling me that that was a good learning experience right there and that it won’t happen again.”
The learning doesn’t stop over the next five weeks just because there’s no practices. But the onus will be on Fields to put in the work, as it is with any of his teammates too.
Fields said he has to do something every day, whether it’s working out or studying his playbook, in order to feel like it was a good day.
“I don’t like feeling like I’m being lazy because that’s one thing that I can control is my work ethic,” Fields said.
The coaching staff has Fields practicing his cadence at home, calling out plays into an audio recorder and sending the recording back to his coaches for feedback. Fields said calling plays in the huddle is the “biggest change” from college to the pros.
“Some of our play calls are really long,” Fields said. “That’s what I do. I get the script the night before, and I just go through them and read them [out loud].”
Injury update: Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols has a minor toe injury. Nichols appeared to tweak something at practice Tuesday and didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Nagy said he thinks Nichols is “going to be fine.”