Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields said Wednesday he used the bye week to rest his body as he gears up for the second half of the season, starting with Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field.
As the Bears resumed practices at Halas Hall this week, here are five things we heard from the rookie and his coaches.
1. Fields said he studied Lamar Jackson film at Ohio State.
Fields expressed admiration for the fourth-year quarterback, who has 2,447 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions and 639 rushing yards and two touchdowns this season.
“There’s not many guys who are like Lamar Jackson,” Fields said of the Ravens QB. “He does stuff that some receivers, running backs can’t even do. … Just all of the backlash he got coming out of college saying he was a running back and stuff like that, he’s just proving everybody wrong and, of course, he’s one of the best in the league right now. So just seeing that young Black quarterbacks can get the job done — and we don’t have to be old-fashioned Pro-style passers to get it done — it just shows that it’s kind of a new wave coming and that athletic guys can play quarterback also.”
Jackson leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing, followed by Jalen Hurts (547 yards), Josh Allen (322 yards) and Fields (288 yards).
Fields said in his final year of college he tried to learn from watching Jackson from afar.
“I would turn on his highlights and study how he ran the read option, how his feet were and how he kind of got a running start,” Fields said. “When he runs the read option, he staggers his feet so he can be already in a running position to run the ball after he’s reading the defensive ends.”
2. Fields regrouped mentally during the bye as he deals with the first four-game losing streak of his football career.
While the Bears have weathered losing streaks of at least four games each of the last three seasons, Fields said he is new to navigating such a stretch. But it wasn’t a focus as he regrouped during the bye, including spending some time in Florida, where he worked out at Brandon Marshall’s House of Athlete.
“I’m not just on the bye week thinking, ‘Dang, we’re on a four-game losing streak,’” Fields said. “I’m of course learning from those mistakes from the games and moving onto the next week. You can’t dwell over the four losses you have. You’ve just got to keep moving and keep pushing forward.”
Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said he wanted Fields to use the time off to relax and get away from football. He noted the grind that rookies go through from the college season to the draft process to offseason workouts, though that process was altered this year because of COVID-19.
“Mental health in this grind of a season is real,” DeFilippo said. “…He needed a couple days, and I was happy that he did that. And then once he got back in town, it was all football. But that was the No. 1 thing, just get away and take a breather.”
3. Fields said the work wide receiver Darnell Mooney puts in is ‘inspiring.’
Fields and Mooney had a solid connection over the first half of the season, when the second-year receiver led the Bears with 36 catches for 450 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yard touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mooney also had a 15-yard touchdown run in the game.
Fields said he has been impressed with Mooney’s approach and said that shows up on gameday.
“He’s always willing to work, always wanting to meet late, meet after meetings and get on Zoom and stuff like that,” Fields said. “Early in the year, we would just stay and throw after practice. So just the connection that we have and just the amount of work he puts in, how great he wants to be, it’s inspiring to me. When I FaceTime and he’s watching film, I’m like, ‘Dang, maybe I should be watching more film.’”
4. Bears coach Matt Nagy said Fields’ improvement in recent weeks can help build confidence as the team tries for its first win since Oct. 10.
Nagy and DeFilippo were encouraged by Fields’ second-half performance against the Steelers as he led a near comeback and finished with 291 passing yards and 45 rushing yards.
DeFilipposaid that Fields keeping his composure to mount the comeback in a national “Monday Night Football” game was significant even if the Bears didn’t pull out the win.
He said that was made possible by Fields’ even-keeled nature.
“We’re the calmest two guys on the field,” DeFilippo said. “He doesn’t need a coach ... that after a good play is Mr. Cheerleader and doesn’t need Mr. Hardass after a tough play. … It allows you to have the confidence within yourself to go out and have the second half that our offense had and Justin had.”
After a week to reflect on how Fields has grown since his first start against the Cleveland Browns, DeFilippo noted a greater comfort level on multiple levels, from communication to reading defenses.
“He’s worked hard and he’s done a great job of seeing the blitzes, seeing coverages, all those things where he’s grown exponentially,” DeFilippo said. “Like on the first RPO when he pulled it and we took the sack, he’s the first guy who came up to me on the sidelines and before he even took off his helmet and said, ‘Flip, I should have handed that off.’ So those areas of growth, where he’s just seeing the whole thing.”
5. Fields said he needs to ‘pick and choose my battles’ when it comes to sliding or taking hits when on the run.
One of the plays that didn’t make Fields’ highlight reel from the Steelers game was when Fields took off on third-and-9 in the second quarter and absorbed a huge hit on the right sideline from Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fields gained 6 yards, and the Bears punted.
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“You saw last game when I got boomed by Minkah and then next time we met I slid, so I pick and choose my battles, and that battle I lost,” Fields said. “... During the week I pick and choose who I might try if I see him one on one. Especially in that situation, it’s third down, I’ve got about 2, 3 yards. If I hit him, I could fall forward and get the first down. You just have to pick and choose the times in the game. I chose that one, and I just lost that one.”