LAKE FOREST – This isn’t Justin Fields’ first rivalry game.
He knows a thing or two about rivalries. As a former Ohio State Buckeye, he also played in one of the biggest college football rivalries against Michigan.
Now, the Bears’ rookie quarterback is preparing to face the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s most storied rivalry this week. The two teams will square off at noon Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The 22-year-old Fields, however, doesn’t seem to be much into the pageantry surrounding rivalry games.
Asked Wednesday what he remembers most about his Ohio State-Michigan experience, he said, “Uh, probably beating them.”
In his only start in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry in 2019 (the 2020 edition was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns), Fields led the Buckeyes to a 56-27 victory.
“Just putting in all that work throughout the offseason and just working toward that game, from workouts to doing extra stuff just to prepare for that game, and then actually playing the game and winning was the best part,” Fields said.
Fields is much more interested in putting in the work than he is in listening to the storylines ahead of the game. But the storylines are intriguing: It will be his first edition of the Bears-Packers rivalry and his first time squaring off against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Fields should be healthy and ready to roll Sunday. He battled through some tough hits last week against the Las Vegas Raiders, and said Wednesday that he’s a little sore this week, but nothing that will keep him out of the game.
At one point against the Raiders, Fields hyperextended his knee and had to leave the game for several plays. It does not appear that his knee is of any major concern.
Bears coach Matt Nagy fully expects Fields to take everything in stride, rivalry or not. Nagy said he doesn’t see much of a difference in Fields when the team wins versus when it loses. He remains calm, cool and confident.
“As you approach and you prepare, we all understand the rivalry of this division game,” Nagy said. “We all get it. We understand it. We know it. At that position, for him to be as young as he is, I think the experiences he’s been through help him.”
Fields has squared off against plenty of good quarterbacks before. When Ohio State played Clemson in the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons, there were inevitable comparisons between Fields and Trevor Lawrence.
This year, Fields represents the hot new thing in the NFC North, while Rodgers – possibly in his last season in Green Bay – represents the old guard.
Fields said Wednesday that he admires the rhythm that Rodgers plays the game with.
“To be honest, I don’t look at it as a matchup between me and Aaron, like I didn’t look at it as a matchup back then between me and Trevor,” Fields said. “I’m simply doing whatever I need to do to help my team win. If that’s hand the ball off 80 times during a game or throw for however many yards, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not worried about comparisons between touchdowns, stats. I’m worried about winning. That’s it.”
With a win Sunday, the Bears (3-2) would pull even with the Packers (4-1) atop the NFC North standings.