Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields returns to practice

Fields practices for 1st time since Oct. 15 thumb injury

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields looks for a receiver during their game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – Bears quarterback Justin Fields returned to practice Friday for the first time since dislocating his right thumb during an Oct. 15 game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.

Fields took the practice field with his teammates and was spotted throwing the football during the portion of practice that was open to members of the media. During practice, which was held indoors Friday, Fields wore gloves on both hands.

The 24-year-old QB has missed the past two games. Backup Tyson Bagent started in his place. Head coach Matt Eberflus wouldn’t officially rule Fields out, but said earlier this week that Bagent will start against the New Orleans Saints.

Fields officially is listed as “doubtful” to play Sunday.

“It’s been tough,” Fields said. “It’s definitely felt longer than [19 days], I can tell you that, but just doing what I can, being the best teammate that I can, just helping Tyson and the rest of the guys get ready to play each and every week.”

Fields exited the game against the Vikings just after halftime. He said his thumb looked “crazy” after he landed awkwardly on it. The Bears’ training staff popped his dislocated thumb back into place. He said it didn’t hurt too much, but after popping it back in, his thumb swelled up quite a bit.

An MRI the following day pretty much ruled out surgery. The Bears decided against placing Fields on injured reserve (which requires a four-game absence). With this particular injury, it takes time for the player to regain the grip strength in his thumb. Until Friday, Fields had not thrown a football since that Oct. 15 game.

The glove on his throwing hand Friday made it a little easier to grip the ball, he said.

“It’s not fully back, no, and there’s, of course, still a little bit of pain,” Fields said. “But like I said, I’ve been preparing like I’m going to play and just meetings, walk-throughs, just been locked in.”

In his place, Bagent is 1-1 as the starter, picking up a win against the Las Vegas Raiders before losing last week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers. After Sunday’s game in New Orleans, the Bears have a quick turnaround before they face the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night in Chicago.

The Bears could target the Thursday game for a return, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise if they take advantage of the nine-day layoff after the “Thursday Night Football” matchup and wait until a Nov. 19 game in Detroit.

“That’s really depending on Justin, where his pain tolerance is when he throws and then also the functionality of it, where it goes from there,” Eberflus said. “It’s day to day.”

Sitting on the sidelines has been tough for Fields, but he has been Bagent’s biggest fan during this stretch.

It kills him that he’s not out there. It hurts that he’s not out there. At the same time, he’s been above and beyond supportive.”

—  Andrew Janocko, Bears QB coach

“It kills him that he’s not out there,” quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko recently told Shaw Local. “It hurts that he’s not out there. At the same time, he’s been above and beyond supportive and above and beyond what we could ever ask from him in that particular role, helping this team win, because he cares about Tyson, and he cares about the guys going out there playing.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.