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Big Decisions Ahead at Quarterback

It's not just whether Andy Dalton will be healthy enough to play but should he risk it and whether the Bears would just keep Fields as starter going forward if he has to start.

The Bears will play the waiting game on Andy Dalton's injured left knee and the prospect of Justin Fields starting Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

At least until later on Monday or into Tuesday they won't have much to say about whether Dalton can play.

"You know as far as the quarterback situation with Andy, he's still working through all his results right now of going through that," coach Matt Nagy said about Dalton on Monday. "So, we'll know more later on tonight with him.

"But I appreciate his toughness and I thought he was playing really well. He took us down there on that first drive for a touchdown, came back out and put together a nice little drive there with some scrambles, he was throwing the ball well, he looked good. Unfortunately, that happened."

The injury, apparently on a scramble to the sidelines before halftime when he was untouched, is not a torn ACL. Nagy suspected this after the game and confirmed it Monday. It caused pain severe enough that it led to Fields playing the rest of the first half and then finishing.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Dalton has a bone bruise, but there is no confirmation of this from the Bears or word on the severity or chances he'll miss the next game.

If there is uncertainty about Dalton's situation after today, it might be worse than if they know he's out. If Dalton is out, they can work with Fields all week on the game plan at practice. If not, two quarterbacks could be getting snaps.

"So what we'll have to do is we'll have to be prepared when we find out exactly what is going on with Andy is understand, 'OK, is he able to go? Is he not able to go?' Work through all of that stuff and, you know, because for us you gotta guy that has been in the league playing quarterback for a long time and you got a guy (Fields) that has never had an NFL start.


"So, we'll have to work through that, which we will, and that gives us time tonight to be able to do that and that's what we'll do."

As far as the game plan, this can have an impact. Nagy said after the game they purposely took out many of the motions, formations and other aspects a veteran would know how to operate mainly because they wanted Fields to be able to play faster and not think so much.

"If it's the same stuff, different stuff, less, more, that's the stuff we'll have to work through tonight," Nagy said.

It might be "different stuff," because Fields' mobility can entire into devising a game plan more than it did when they had to wing it during Sunday's second half.

"When you have (an in-game injury), I think what happens is as a play-caller you try to go to some of the stuff that you know he knows, where the bones are buried in the play," Nagy said. "And so, you want to be able to help him out that way.

"But at the same point in time, it's your job as a backup to make sure that you know the entire call sheet inside out, which he did—and he does. I know coach Flip (quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo) has done a phenomenal job at working with him and getting him prepared. And so there was really the whole play sheet, the call sheet, was open. But there's just a feel to where it's going and how it's going with the shifts and motions."

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Playing Fields could mean living with mistakes. He had a key interception he threw to Logan Wilson after the outcome seemed decided, and it let the Bengals back in the game.

"We have to make that very normal for us to understand that if indeed he is the starter and the guy, there's gonna be some of that," Nagy said. "But then how do we help him with that?

"When the ball was snapped, we've gotta do everything we possibly can to help him really understand the play inside-out. And that comes through with what we've done in OTAs and training camp so that he can play fast and the last thing we want is him playing slow and then having to react to the defense."

Nagy defended Fields a bit on the interception by Wilson, the inside linebacker.

"The dropper did a good job of rushing and then dropping," Nagy said.

The Bengals deceived Fields with their combination of disguised coverage and Wilson moving one way first.

"He right away, right after the ball came out, he knew it, he felt it," Nagy said. "But they did a good job on defense. The kid made a good play popping back and making the interceptions.

"These are different looks that he's gonna get and we just want to prepare him as much as possible to understand kinda how that stuff goes."

Fields appeared uncomfortable against some of the blitzes Cincinnati threw at the Bears very late in the game while trying to get the ball back.

Possibly the biggest question regarding a Fields start would be what happens after a few games when Dalton heals. 

If it's a knee sprain, it could be anything from a week to three or four. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman is working through a knee injury now and will be going into his third week away.

"That's all stuff that we've talked about," Nagy said. "We've discussed how things would go, the what-if game, just so that you're not making emotional decisions."

He's not discussing it openly, yet.

"Me as a head coach, Ryan (Pace) as a GM, our coaching staff—we talk through a little bit of the what-ifs," Nagy said. "But we just try to stay in the moment right now."

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