January 20, 2022

Bears News

Bears head coach Matt Nagy says QB Justin Fields to start Sunday vs. Vikings

Fields has missed 2 consecutive games because of ankle injury

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields listens to head coach Matt Nagy before a game against the Minnesota Vikings Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Chicago.

Justin Fields couldn’t run last week on his injured ankle without feeling pain.

The injury “slowly got better,” Fields said Wednesday, and he apparently is running pain-free. Coach Matt Nagy said he expects Fields will start Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Fields has missed two consecutive games because of his injured ankle. He was a limited participant in practice last week, but the team elected to start veteran Andy Dalton in his place. Dalton led the Bears to a 29-3 win over the New York Giants on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Fields will return this week with the aim of finishing his rookie season strong. The Bears are 2-8 in the 22-year-old quarterback’s 10 starts this season. He has thrown for 1,870 yards with seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He also has rushed for 420 yards and two touchdowns.

He last saw game action Dec. 20 when the Bears had their first meeting with Minnesota, a 17-9 Vikings victory in Chicago. Fields hurt his ankle in the second quarter but played through the injury for the remainder of the game.

The rookie said Wednesday that it was important for him to finish the season on the field because he owes it to his teammates.

“You don’t get these moments back,” Fields said. “There’s teammates on my team who – I don’t know who may be here next year, so I’m just getting that one last game with those guys in and just not taking any of it for granted. Of course, I could just sit out the last game and just get ready for next season, but every opportunity I get to play the game I love, I’m going to go and do it.”

Nobody would blame the Bears for shutting down Fields at this point in the season. They have two capable veteran backups, and the team is 6-10 with no hope for a playoff spot.

An outside observer might suggest there’s no point in playing Fields, and that the injury risk outweighs any potential gains. Fields has been beaten up this season, first with three broken ribs in November and now with the ankle issue.

But NFL snaps are incredibly valuable, especially for a rookie quarterback who is going to have heavy expectations on his shoulders during his sophomore season next year.

“We’re not just going to try to get to the offseason as fast as possible,” Fields said. “Guys still want to show up to work every day and get better and really take every day as an investment. When you go to work, just invest in your craft and you’re getting better not only for the game coming up, but for multiple opportunities that come up even next year.”

NFL résumés are built on wins and losses, especially for head coaches and quarterbacks. Rest assured, Nagy and Fields want to win this game. For the second time this season, Nagy on Wednesday had to brush aside a report that his firing is imminent. It may still be coming after Sunday’s game, but until the words come from chairman George McCaskey himself, nobody knows which direction the Bears are going to go.

Outside of winning football games, Nagy’s No. 1 job this season was developing Fields. If the Bears win on Sunday and Fields looks really good doing it, Nagy certainly can use that as justification for why he should keep his job.

The bigger question is whether it’s too late to change his bosses minds.

“At the quarterback position, it takes time,” Nagy said. “As I’ve been saying from the very beginning, whether it’s games or years, you look at some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play this game, they’re still getting better and better whether they’re in there eighth, ninth or 10th year.”

Fields still has much to learn. He can’t do that if he’s sitting on the sidelines.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.