Rookie quarterback Justin Fields returned to practice Wednesday, but veteran Andy Dalton took all the reps with the first-team offense. Fields had not played or practiced since injuring his ribs on Nov. 21 against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy has not committed to a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals. The starting quarterback typically meets with the media on Wednesdays every week, but the Bears didn’t make either quarterback available Wednesday.
Returning to practice is a good first step for Fields, who didn’t practice at all during a shortened week of practice ahead of last week’s Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions.
“He’s in a good place,” Nagy said. “Every day he’s trying to get a little bit better.”
The rookie played one series into the second half against Baltimore before trainers pulled him aside and examined his midsection. Dalton finished out that game and started last week against the Lions.
Dalton played well in both games. In Detroit, he threw for 317 yards with one touchdown and one interception on 24-for-39 passing. He guided the Bears’ offense 69 yards on the final possession to set up a game-winning field goal for kicker Cairo Santos.
In sitting Fields against Detroit, the hope was to give him two full weeks to rest before the Bears face the Cardinals on Sunday. Nagy confirmed Monday that Fields did, indeed, have broken ribs, which had previously been characterized as “cracked.” The team has not given a timeline for the injury.
Nagy didn’t elaborate much on Fields’ status Wednesday, but it sounds like it might come down to pain tolerance.
“I just know when we listen to our doctors and we listen to Justin, with any pain that he would be going through, we want to make sure we’re smart for him and for us, too, making the right decision,” Nagy said.
Fields struggled in the first half against Baltimore, but had been playing well before that. He led a remarkable touchdown drive to regain the lead in the final minutes against the Steelers on Nov. 8, only for the defense to give up the lead on the next possession. The week before that, he ran for 103 yards and threw for 175 yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Bears would prefer to see their first-round draft pick play as much as possible during the final six games of the season. Of course, his health comes first.
“I really felt like those last two games prior to that he had some moments in there where you could feel him growing,” Nagy said. “You saw him in practice really starting to see it. This is a part of life, of playing quarterback in this league. There’s going to be injuries that happen. He’s done a great job of staying mentally focused.”
The Bears’ next opponent is also dealing with a quarterback injury. Cardinals starting quarterback Kyler Murray hasn’t played since an Oct. 28 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Murray has been dealing with an ankle injury for several weeks and has missed three games. The former No. 1 overall draft pick did return to the practice field Wednesday in a limited capacity.