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Pain Without Gain for Justin Fields

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy offered no update Monday on the status of injured quarterback Justin Fields with regards to starting Thursday against the Detroit Lions.

The Bears put off until later making any decisions on Justin Fields for Thursday's game with Detroit after the rib injury he suffered.

Coach Matt Nagy offered no more insight on the injury than he did after the game. It doesn't say much for the X-ray machines Bears medical personnel have at their disposal as 24 hours later he couldn't say whether Fields had a broken rib or ribs.

"I can't rule out anything, all I can say is we're waiting to get feedback today and then that's what we've got to go off of," Nagy said.

At the same time, ESPN's Adam Schefter was reporting the initial tests showed no broken ribs, so perhaps he has better X-rays.

It all seemed so much camouflage by the Bears seeking some sort of competitive edge in preparation for this 11:30 a. m. Thanksgiving Day game on short turnaround, although why they would waste time doing it with a 3-7 record and facing a winless Lions team is the real mystery.

"Yesterday was that he's in pain and that we're going to get it looked at," Nagy said. "So that's what they're doing today and now as we're going through last night all night and this morning all morning, going through the game plan on Detroit, now as we get through today, we talk through all that.

"We get the results on where things are and then we have to work through that."

Considering the pain often associated with rib injuries, it would seem logical for the Bears to shut down Fields immediately and start Andy Dalton against the Lions in an attempt to halt a five-game losing streak.

A case of being safe rather than putting Fields at risk for more harm seems logical.

“Well, he's, I think where he's been at and the way he's growing and just for him to get these reps but at the same point in time, there is the safety issue, too, with making sure that he doesn't get to a point where things get worse," Nagy admitted. "So we got to monitor that. We got to keep an eye on that.

"I think that regardless of everything, we always want to make sure that all our players, we're not putting them at more risk regardless of who you are."

The quarterback position and Fields' status as the future of the franchise dictate a conservative approach, even if the Bears aren't admitting as much.

"Obviously, there's more magnitude to everybody else and to us with Justin and being the quarterback and touching the football every play and throwing and that sort of thing," Nagy said. "So we'll have to keep that in mind."

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The NFL requires teams playing on Thursdays to put out injury reports on Mondays even though no actual practice is held, only walk-throughs. The Bears had Fields listed as did not practice. Also not practicing would have been Akiem Hicks (ankle), Duke Shelley (hamstring), Allen Robinson (hamstring) and Damien Williams (calf). Eddie Jackson (hamstring) and Darnell Mooney (calf) would have practiced on a limited basis.

In Fields' case, playing with an injury is always an option because of his reputation. His toughness against Clemson in the playoffs after taking a big hit in the ribs, and during the Ohio State win over Michigan in 2019 were part of the legend he'd built for durability at his school.

"Well again, that's part of the toughness part of it, he's been, he's a tough guy," Nagy said. "So when you go through these type of things our trainer Andre (Tucker) has to be able to gauge where he's at, but I think with this being the ribs ... I mean we just have to be able to evaluate, OK, pain and the simplicity of breathing and sleeping. You know, the things that we just take for granted to throwing a football, you know you have to be able to know where that's at.

"So we've just got to see where things are at today, and then tomorrow (Tuesday) and we've got to be able to make a decision off of that.

The question facing the Bears here is why they would let themselves get distracted and wouldn't just say Fields is out. After all, they will be using different plays for their more mobile quarterback than for the veteran pocket passer Dalton.

"What we do is we prepare for both," Nagy said. "Game-plan wise, you could only do so much in this short amount of time, so that’s what we got to keep that in mind as we go and our coaches will do a good job of that.”

The switch Sunday to Dalton resulted in a two-play touchdown drive, with a completion for 17 to tight end Jimmy Graham in a three-tight end formation, and then a wide receiver screen that Darnell Mooney broke for the 60-yard TD.

It seemed shocking for two plays to break after the Bears trailed 6-0 halfway through the game and neither were plays the Bears overused with Fields in the lineup. But Nagy said the screen was not really a screen as much as a run-pass option throw. He also pointed out Fields has thrown passes with formations using 13 personnel (three tight ends) in the past.

"Justin's hit a bunch of play actions out of rhino personnel. He's done a lot, Nagy maintained.

It seemed like too much of a coincidence that the plays both broke after Fields was experiencing trouble sustaining much in the passing game. But Nagy wouldn't say they were using a different type offense or plays for Dalton than with Fields in the lineup and instead credited good execution. 

"Here’s the beauty of that play of the long touchdown to Mooney was the blocking by the tight ends," Nagy said. "That was clinic blocking and the thousands of times that we've run that play in this offense in the last 10 years, that's one of the best ones we've had because of the blocking. So that's the execution was all the players."

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