LAKE FOREST – The quarterbacks in Sunday’s matchup between the Bears and the New York Jets could look quite different than expected only days ago.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields remains “day-to-day,” head coach Matt Eberflus said, but Fields returned to practice Wednesday. Fields said he has a separated shoulder with partially torn ligaments. He called it “basically an AC joint” injury.
Meanwhile, the Jets are dealing with quarterback questions of their own. On Wednesday, coach Robert Saleh announced that quarterback Mike White will start in place of Zach Wilson. Wilson was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2021.
Fields injured his shoulder in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Eberflus said Fields’ status for this week’s game will depend on how the QB feels as the week of practice progresses. Wednesday’s practice was a walk-through, so it wasn’t full speed or in pads, but the fact that Fields was cleared to practice is a positive sign.
“It’s kind of one of those things, you work through the week and we’ll see where it is and, hopefully, we’re getting better and better every single day,” Eberflus said.
Asked if there was any risk of Fields going on injured reserve, which would require a four-game absence, Eberflus said no.
Fields injured his shoulder on the final drive of Sunday’s game. A defender tripped him as he ran toward the sideline. The 23-year-old quarterback landed awkwardly on his left shoulder, his nonthrowing shoulder.
He remained in the game, but was in some obvious pain after taking another hit on the following play. Fields needed X-rays and further evaluation following the game. He said Sunday that his shoulder was in a lot of pain.
Fields has started all 11 games for the Bears this season. After a slow start to the season, the Bears’ offense has been rolling over the past month and a half. Fields has rushed for 106.7 yards per game over the past six games and is on pace to challenge Lamar Jackson’s 2019 QB rushing record.
Fields said if the game were Wednesday, he probably wouldn’t have played.
“But good thing we don’t play today,” Fields said. “We play in four days. So we’ll see how it feels in four days.”
The decision will be a group effort between Eberflus, Fields, the training staff and general manager Ryan Poles. A change at quarterback likely would mean a huge shift for this offense, which has found success largely thanks to Fields’ mobility. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian doesn’t have that same skill set.
A Bears offense led by Siemian would likely become more reliant on running back David Montgomery. Siemian is not the type of QB who can scramble and pick up first downs – something Fields has done countless times over the past month. In six games with New Orleans last year, Siemian rushed for 20 total yards.
All the uncertainty surrounding Fields could be gamesmanship in an effort to keep the Jets guessing at which quarterback will play Sunday. Eberflus declined to say whether Siemian would see extra reps in practice this week.
Asked why they wouldn’t simply play it safe and rest Fields for a week, Eberflus said the Bears – who are on a four-game losing streak – want to win.
“I would just say that 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, feels good about it, he’s going to play the game. Really, the reason is because we’re trying to win. We want to win the game.”
The Jets elected to make their QB switch public Wednesday. The Bears now know they will be dealing with White, rather than Wilson. Eberflus said that helps his defense, in terms of knowing which style of QB will be playing. He said Wilson is much more mobile, and White is more of a pocket passer.
Asked about the gamesmanship involved in keeping his own QB situation quiet, Eberflus said, “You’ve always got to do that, especially when you’ve got two different types of quarterbacks.”
The Bears’ offense certainly might look different with Siemian at quarterback instead of Fields.
“That’s a question everybody wants to know,” receiver Darnell Mooney said. “Elephant in the room: Trevor’s not as athletic as Justin.”
Injury updates: Safety Jaquan Brisker, cornerback Kyler Gordon and linebacker Sterling Weatherford all sat out practice Wednesday in concussion protocol.
Fields was listed as a limited participant. Safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) and right guard Teven Jenkins (hip) were full participants.
Eberflus said center Lucas Patrick had surgery on his injured toe and will miss the remainder of the season.