The Chicago Bears had a light practice Wednesday afternoon, a run of sorts, but with enough work, Justin Fields was able to test his injured left shoulder. Team medical staff cleared Fields to participate, but he still felt noticeable pain as he continued to work through what he said was a shoulder separation with a partial ligament tear.
Fields indicated that he felt uncomfortable throwing and delivering the ball during training. He said, “The pain is very high.”
If the Bears had to face the New York Jets on Wednesday, Fields said he wouldn’t have played.
“But the good thing is that we are not playing today,” he added. “We play in four days. So we’ll see how you feel in four days.”
This is good news for bears. What was not.
Suddenly the team finds itself faced with a big decision, balancing the risk-reward proposition of putting the franchise quarterback on the field with a major injury to his not-so-fragile shoulder.
As the week progresses, this will become an issue of strength and pain tolerance, which Fields rarely has problems with. He noted on Wednesday that the most pain he faced came during the national championship game in January 2021, when he was playing Ohio State with cracked ribs and a partial tear in his quadriceps muscle.
“This is the last game of the year,” said Fields. “I have to play near death not to play into that.”
Fields was reminded, however, that the 3-8 Bears will not be playing in Sunday’s championship game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
He said, “Yes, absolutely.” “Again, it’s just seeing how I feel, seeing whether or not I can protect myself and just playing by ear.”
To this end, head coach Matt Eberfels has assured that the Bears will not be reckless with any final decision they make should Fields play. “He has to be fully prepared, willing to do everything,” Eberflos said.
At the same time, the bears will have a lot to sort out. Fields is already pressing to play, and his coach doesn’t mind having him up against the Jets, especially after Fields has caught 15 touchdowns over the last five games.
“If he’s ready to play, he’ll play,” said Eberflus. “He feels that way; we feel that way. If he’s ready to go and feels good about it, he’ll play the game. … We’re trying to win. We want to win. There are so many great things to have the experience of playing a game, every game we can do.” This is an important part of this season.”
Fields added: “Coach Floss pretty much said it’s up to me. They want the best thing for me. So he said if I feel like I can play, if I feel like I can go out there and protect myself, then I’ll be able to go. I’ll see how you feel every day and play it.” by ear.”
Bears general manager Ryan Pauls, though, is sure to make a huge impact on the team’s final call.
Eberflus understands that the Poles must remain mindful of prioritizing the bears’ long-term interests over short-term competitive desires. And so the internal discussions in Hallas Hall in the coming days will be important as coaching staff and the front office work to get or stay on the same page.
Eberfels was asked what would happen if his desire for Fields to play this weekend collided with showing the Poles the bigger picture.
“There’s a big argument then,” Eberlus said with a laugh, “we have disagreements like that sometimes and we’ll just have to get our heads together and make a logical decision.”
Smart Money says the team will err on the side of caution if fields are severely limited or deemed vulnerable in any way.
“We’ll see where it goes,” said Eberlus. “We’ll see. (Thursday) it’s going to be more fast (exercise). We’ll see when it’s moving full speed during that time and during the drilling. We’ll be able to tell.”
Fields injured his left shoulder on the first game of the Bears’ final drive Sunday at Atlanta, landing awkwardly when he was tackled near the sideline by Falcons’ cornerback Dee Alford on the end of a 1-yard run. Fields played his last two tackles after that injury but threw an interception that led to a 27-24 loss for the Bears.
If Fields can’t play on Sunday, backup Trevor Siemian will start against the Jets. Ideally, the Bears would like to have Simian first team reps run their offense in practice if that is the direction they feel things are going.
“This is definitely an important piece for her,” said Eberfels. “Your back-up should always be ready. Trevor was outstanding in meetings. He has great functional intelligence to be able to run offense. And he is knowledgeable about offense.”
Eberflus acknowledged Fields’ mental and physical toughness as well as his competitiveness could complicate team ratings.
Once the player says, ‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ the final hurdle is, because of who this guy is, is he really ready to go?” Eberflus said. “Can he go full speed? Can he work? It is up to the player and the coaches eye.”
On Wednesday, Fields was up front about expressing the pain he was feeling as he passed. “I can feel it pretty much on every pitch,” he said.
Now, as he presses to regain his strength and speed up his recovery, he’s also working to see how he can offset the new limitations in his left shoulder.
“I’m going to work throughout the week to reduce that movement, try to ease that pain a little bit and see what happens Friday and Saturday night,” Fields said. “We’ll see how it goes.”